BEIJING, July 31 (UPI) -- Juma Tahir, the 74-year-old Uighur imam of China's largest mosque, was reportedly stabbed to death on Wednesday morning outside the main mosque in the city of Kasghar in Xinjiang.
The Muslim cleric had frustrated fellow Muslims for his support of the Chinese Communist Party and may have been killed for those beliefs.
A local shopkeeper described the scene on Wednesday to Radio Free Asia. "I saw the body lying in front of the Id Kah mosque, and when I asked one of those leaving the scene about the commotion and the police presence, he said the body was that of Juma Tahir."
Another witness said there was a prayer service and ritual cleansing of the body inside the mosque later Wednesday morning, and that the body was buried in the late afternoon.
Barricades were erected in the vicinity of the mosque and a temporary internet and SMS blackout imposed to restrict news of the killing from spreading. Residents reported the barricades had been removed by the evening. It is unclear whether internet and text messaging have been restored.
Xinjiang is an expansive area of China that was traditionally inhabited by the Muslim Uighurs, Kazaks, and some smaller groups. During the last two decades, however, there has been an influx of Han Chinese migrants. Resentment against Han Chinese political and cultural domination simmers and sometimes erupts into violence.