BEIJING (AP) — A clash between knife-wielding assailants and police officers in China's restive Xinjiang region left 16 people dead, including two police, state media said Monday.
The region's official news portal, Tianshan Net, said "several thugs" threw explosives Sunday night at the officers, who were pursuing unidentified suspects, and attacked them with knives.
Two of the officers in Kashgar prefecture's Sayibage township were killed and police fatally shot 14 assailants, the report said. Two other suspected assailants were arrested, it said. No further details were provided.
Calls to local authorities rang unanswered or were picked up by officials who said they did not know about the attack.
Xinjiang has long been home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule among parts of the Muslim Uighur population. Recent clashes, including an attack on a police station, left dozens of people dead this year.
Sweden-based Uighur (pronounced WEE'-gur) activist Dilxat Raxit said the incident was the latest example of how Chinese security forces are increasingly opting to kill suspects at the scene rather than capturing them and putting them on trial. Police also killed nine assailants in the attack on the police station in November.
"They are now opening fire and killing people, then calling them terrorists," Raxit said by phone. "This deprives them of their right to defend themselves in a court."
The government typically calls the incidents terrorist attacks linked to radicals based overseas, although there is little evidence that they are carefully organized. In many cases, the violence appears caused by anger over poverty and strict rules on Uighur culture and Muslim worship, along with the influence of global jihadi teachings.
Among the more audacious attacks was one that struck in the heart of China's capital in October. Authorities say three Uighurs drove a sport utility vehicle through crowds toward Tiananmen Gate where it burst into flames, killing the three occupants and two tourists and injuring dozens.
Police said the car crash was a terrorist attack and arrested five people in connection with it.