The imam of Xinjiang’s largest mosque, located in Kashgar, was killed Wednesday, and shortly afterwards police shot dead two suspects in the murder, who, according to the police, “resisted arrest with knives and axes.”

The suspects had been located shortly after the murder, according to police, who said the men had been “influenced by religious extremism.”

The suspects, according to Chinese state media agency Xinhua, had planned to “do something big” to boost their influence in the region.

The imam, Jume Tahir, was appointed to the position of imam of the mosque by China’s ruling Communist Party.

There have been reports that the imam was unpopular for praising Chinese policies while preaching.

Xinjiang is composed of 43.3 percent Uyghur, 41 percent Han Chinese, 8.3 percent Kazakh, 5 percent Hui and small numbers of other ethnic groups. Han have been migrating to Xinjiang on a large scale in recent years, and tensions have been rising between the local Uyghurs and their Chinese rulers.

By Day Blakely Donaldson