Updated: Wed, 26 Jun 2013 07:48:45 GMT | By Agence France-Presse

Riots in China's Xinjiang region kill 27: Xinhua

Riots in China's ethnically divided Xinjiang have left 27 dead in the latest outbreak of violence in the troubled western region, according to state media which said police shot at "knife-wielding mobs".


Riots in China's Xinjiang region kill 27: Xinhua

File picture shows Chinese paramilitary police in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang region. Riots in China's ethnically divided Xinjiang have left at least 27 dead in the latest outbreak of violence in the troubled western region, according to state media which said police opened fire on "knife-wielding mobs".

Police opened fire on groups attacking police stations, a local government building and a construction site, the Xinhua news agency said, citing local officials.

"Seventeen people had been killed... before police opened fire and shot dead 10 rioters," it said. The mobs were also "stabbing at people and setting fire to police cars", the report said.

Nine police or security guards and eight civilians were killed before police opened fire, the report said, adding that three others were rushed to a local hospital after being injured.

The clashes occurred early Wednesday morning in an area about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the desert city of Turpan and about 250 kilometres from the regional capital Urumqi.

The reason for the violence was not immediately clear and police in Turpan refused to comment when contacted by AFP.

Xinjiang, a region about twice the size of Turkey, is regularly hit by unrest. It is home to around nine million members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, many of whom complain of religious and cultural repression by the Chinese authorities.

According to official figures, 46 percent of Xinjiang's population is Uighur, while another 39 percent are Han Chinese, after millions moved to the area in recent decades in search of jobs.

China reported that 21 people died in clashes between police and locals in the region in April, which the government said were caused by "terrorists".

Chinese authorities have often blamed clashes in the region on "terrorists", and a court in Xinjiang recently jailed nine people for "religious extremism".

China said clashes in 2011 that killed 19 were organised by terrorists who trained in Pakistan and were part of a separatist movement seeking an independent state in Xinjiang.

However, Uighur rights groups have dismissed those claims, blaming the causes for the unrest on economic inequality and religious repression.

The region's worst ethnic violence in recent years occurred in 2009, when riots between Uighurs and members of China's Han ethnic majority killed around 200 people in Urumqi.

The riots led to a major security push in the region, which rights groups say has resulted in intense monitoring of Uighurs by security forces.

A specialised anti-terrorism unit of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) carried out drills in April, China's official military newspaper the PLA Daily reported previously.

The province saw more than half of China's "endangering state security" trials last year, despite being home to less than two percent of the country's population, a statistic the Dui Hua Foundation advocacy group said suggested "ethnic discrimination" against Uighurs.

Beijing has launched a stream of high-profile investment projects in an attempt to boost economic growth in the relatively poor region, which has rich reserves of coal and gas.

The Uighurs, who mostly follow Sunni Islam, speak a Turkic language and have ethnic links with groups in neighbouring countries including Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Xinjiang's regional government was not available for comment on Wednesday's violence.

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