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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chinese Diplomat Shot in Bishkek

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyz officials on Monday promised swift arrests in the shooting of a Chinese diplomat as Beijing pressed the Central Asian country for quick action.

A list of suspects in the Saturday night shooting in the capital Bishkek has been drawn up and arrests in the case will be made Tuesday or Wednesday, Interior Ministry spokesman Umurbek Agemberdiyev said.

Agemberdiyev identified the victim as Wang Jianping, first secretary at the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek. Also killed was Nurmachamed Umarov, a businessman of Uighur nationality.

The Uighurs are Muslims who live mostly in China's northwestern Xinjiang province, which shares borders with several Central Asian nations, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The men were killed after two attackers in another vehicle forced a Mercedes driven by Umarov to stop and fired four shots from a pistol through the windshield, Agemberdiyev said.

Wang had issued visas at the embassy, Agemberdiyev said. Umarov worked closely with him, helping visa applicants.

China on Monday called for quick action in the case.

"The Chinese side strongly condemns such an evil act," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told China's state-run Xinhua News Agency, adding that China had asked Kyrgyzstan "to uncover the case as soon as possible and seize and ... punish the murderer."

On Sunday, Agemberdiyev had said the shooting could have been a contract killing, with Umarov the main target.

Earlier this year, a man was sentenced to death and three others to long prison terms for the March 2000 killing in Bishkek of a moderate Uighur leader, Negmat Bazakov. Prosecutors said the attack on Bazakov was organized by people connected to Uighur separatist group Shark Azatlyk Taskhilaty.

In May 2000, unidentified gunmen in Bishkek killed one official and wounded two others from China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The Chinese officials were investigating an arson attack at a Chinese market in Bishkek.

The Uighurs declared a short-lived East Turkestan Republic in Xinjiang in the late 1940s but have been under firm Chinese control since the communists seized power in 1949. Many Uighurs have called for independence.

China has tried to counter the Uighurs by improving relations with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan -- all former Soviet republics that border China -- and getting them to pledge not to support anti-Chinese separatists.

China and Kyrgyzstan have recently sought to end years of debate over territories they both claim by demarcating their shared border. Opposition claims that the Kyrgyz government was giving away too much land helped fuel protests that in March led to the first political violence in Kyrgyzstan since its independence from the Soviet Union.