CCTV releases images of Xinjiang 'terrorist' victims

On April 23, a gang of 14 "suspicious people" took three community workers hostage in a house in the Chinese region of Xinjiang. When police and officials rushed to the scene, the gang, all of whom were members of China's Uighur minority, attacked them with axes and large knives, murdered the hostages, and set the house on fire, according to local Chinese authorities. Twenty-one people died in the violence.

As I wrote on Friday, while the government's version of the events may seem far-fetched, journalists' inability to report in the region and prove otherwise has lent it credibility. The incident has gotten a lot of airtime on China Central Television, the state broadcaster, which on Tuesday released gruesome images of the murdered cadres. Stills have been circulating online as well. Most of the websites that have hosted the photos appear to have had their comment sections deleted, but on Literature City, an overseas Chinese website, many of the comments take an uncharitable view of Uighurs, ho make up 45 percent of Xinjiang's population. "This is human scum complaining about unfair treatment," wrote one commentator.

In the days since the bloodshed in Xinjiang, police have arrested 19 suspects. The Associated Press, citing Xinjiang's propaganda office, said the suspects "belonged to a terrorist group founded in September, whose members regularly watched video clips advocating religious extremism and terrorism, and attended illegal preaching ceremonies." Whether that's actually true or not may never be known.


The media wakes up to Dagestan's silent war

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, the media and investigators quickly turned their attention to Dagestan, the Russian province where the two suspects -- Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev -- have deep family connections. In subsequent coverage, the region was described as "plagued by violence," "known to grow and export terrorists," and "the site of a long-running Islamic insurgency." It had taken a bombing on American soil -- one with what may turn out to be a spurious connection to Dagestan -- to wake the press up to the persistent turmoil in the North Caucasus.

That dynamic was on vivid display today, as news broke that a bombing had killed two teenagers near a Dagestan shopping mall. The media -- both in the United States and around the world -- seized on the story (a quick English-language Google News search yields roughly 40 results). But as coverage of Dagestan over the past weeks has made clear, attacks of this nature are far from rare in the province. 

On May 3, 2012, for instance, 14 people were killed and 87 injured in a twin bombing in Dagestan. But the international media paid scant attention to the event. According to a LexisNexis search of international newspapers, only five picked up the story.

And when there are fewer casualties, the results are even more dispiriting. On Feb. 14, 2013, a suicide bombing killed four and injured five at a Dagestan police post. Three newspapers picked up the story. 

As Anna Nemtsova recently wrote in Foreign Policy, even Russians refuse to pay attention to the conflict in the Caucasus until it arrives at their doorsteps: 

In the first four months of this year alone, 67 people have fallen victim to terror attacks in Dagestan, but the news media hardly mention the casualties. Russians only pay attention to the insurgency when suicide bombers attack the Moscow subway or the airport. Whenever this happens, experts invariably urge the Kremlin to analyze why the jihad by Salafi community in North Caucasus keeps on simmering.

It's an important reminder of how parochial the media's interest can often be.