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Clashes in China leave 21 dead

BEIJING — Clashes in China’s restive Xinjiang region have left 21 people dead, including 15 police officers and officials, authorities say.

The violence occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Bachu county, Kashgar prefecture.

The foreign ministry said it had been a planned attack by a “violent terrorist group”, but ethnic groups questioned this.

There have been sporadic clashes in Xinjiang in recent years.

The incidents come amid rumbling ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uighur and Han Chinese communities. In 2009 almost 200 people – mostly Han Chinese – were killed after deadly rioting erupted.

It is very difficult to verify reports from Xinjiang. Foreign journalists are allowed to travel to the region but frequently face intimidation and harassment when attempting to verify news of ethnic rioting or organised violence against government authorities.

Hou Hanmin, director of the Xinjiang government’s propaganda department, said Tuesday’s clashes began as officials described as community workers searched homes for weapons.

She told the BBC’s Chinese service that three of the workers were killed as they were investigating reports of suspicious individuals at the home of a local resident.

Unarmed police then arrived to investigate the workers’ earlier reports and were attacked, said Ms. Hou. Three “thugs” died and nine police officers were cornered in a house which was then set on fire, she said, calling the incident a “planned terrorist attack” on innocent victims.

There was no information on the identity of the assailants. Ten of the officials and police killed were ethnic Uighurs, the local authorities said. (BBC)

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