Violent clashes in China between authorities and assailants described as a terrorist gang have left 21 people dead in the restive northwestern region of Xinjiang, Associated Press quoting local government sources reported today.
In a news release, the Xinjiang government propaganda office said the dead in the fighting on Tuesday afternoon included 15 police officers and local government officials.
Six assailants were killed on the spot while another eight were captured alive, it added.
"Initial investigations show this was a gang plotting to carry out terrorist acts and the case is now being further cracked open," the release said.
A leading activist from the region's indigenous Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group disputed the official account and quoted local sources as saying that the police sparked the incident by shooting a Uighur youth during an illegal search of homes.
The toll was the highest for a single incident in months in Xinjiang, where outbreaks of violence between Uighurs and majority ethnic Han Chinese migrants are recurrent.
Rioting in July 2009 between Uighurs and Han left around 200 people in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi dead and there had been sporadic attacks since, which were all quickly suppressed with overwhelming force by local paramilitary units.
Meanwhile, a report carried by Tianshan Net, at 1.30 pm on 23 April said, while community staff were visiting the homes of various residents in Selibuya, a township in the county of Bachu (Maralbexi) in Xinjiang's Kashgar prefecture, the community staff came across some suspicious people and knives in one home.
Though staff alerted their superiors about the situation over mobile phone they were captured by people who had been hiding in the room.
Local police and community officials rushed to the spot after receiving the report and were set upon and murdered by the group. The community staff held hostage were also killed. The house was later set on fire by the perpetrators.
As more police arrived the situation was brought under control but not before the perpetrators had been shot dead.
The toll in the shoot out was 15. (10 Uyghurs, 3 Han, 2 Mongolian).
The violence resulted in death of 6 of the perpetrators while 8 were captured.
The report said initial investigations have found that it was a planned terrorist activity. Investigations are still going on.