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Rioting in western China: Why are 27 dead? (+video)

Rioting in western China: In one of the deadliest incidents since 2009, rioting broke out and assailants attacked police and other people with knives and set fire to police cars in western China Wednesday.

By Gillian WongAssociated Press / June 27, 2013


Beijing

Assailants attacked police and other people with knives and set fire to police cars in China's restive far-western region on Wednesday in violence that killed 27 people, one of the bloodiest incidents since unrest in the regional capital killed nearly 200 in 2009.

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The early-morning violence — described by state media as riots — also left at least three people injured in a remote area of the Turkic-speaking Xinjiang region, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Police stations, a government building and a construction site were targeted in the attacks, it said.

Xinhua said the attackers stabbed victims and set fires, killing 17 people including nine police or security officials, before officers shot and killed 10 of the assailants in Lukqun, a township in Turpan prefecture. The agency cited officials with the region's Communist Party committee.

Xinjiang (shihn-jeeahng) is home to a large population of minority Muslim Uighurs (WEE'-gurs) but is ruled by China's Han ethnic majority. The region borders Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and has been the scene of numerous violent incidents in recent years, including ethnic riots four years ago in Urumqi, the regional capital.

Xinhua did not provide details about the cause of the unrest and it was impossible to independently confirm the report. Information is tightly controlled in the region, which the Chinese government regards as highly sensitive and where it has imposed a heavy security presence to quell unrest. However, forces are spread thin across the vast territory and the response from authorities is often slow.

The United States said it was closely following the reports of violence, and it urged Chinese authorities to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to provide due process and legal protections to those detained.

"We remain deeply concerned by the ongoing reports of discrimination and restrictions against Uighurs and Muslims in China," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington.

An official reached by phone at the press office of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, the region's police, said she had only seen news of the violence on the Internet and had no information. Other officials at the county's propaganda department and police said they also had no details. Calls to the region's government spokeswoman, Hou Hanmin, rang unanswered.

Though it remained unclear what caused Wednesday's violence, police stations, government offices and other symbols of Han Chinese authority have been targets of attacks in the past. The attack occurred at 6 a.m., when most residents would still be asleep.

The report said three assailants were seized, and that police pursued fleeing suspects, though it did not say how many. It said three people were injured by the unrest and were being treated.

The violence came two months after a deadly clash in a town near Kashgar, elsewhere in Xinjiang, killed 21 people, including 15 police officers and community workers.

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