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Report: 12 killed in rioting in Xinjiang, China

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
updated 4:16 PM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
A Uighur woman crosses a street in front of Chinese soldiers in Urumqi in this file picture dated July 15, 2009
A Uighur woman crosses a street in front of Chinese soldiers in Urumqi in this file picture dated July 15, 2009
  • China's Xinhua news agency reports 12 killed in rioting near Kashgar
  • The report says 10 were killed in the disturbance and police shot dead another two
  • Beijing has blamed militants of Uighur descent for outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang in recent years
  • Uighurs are ethnic Turks distinct from China's majority Han population

(CNN) -- Rioting near the northwestern Chinese city of Kashgar on Tuesday left 12 people dead, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The news agency said that 10 people were killed in riots in the restive Xinjiang province and police shot dead a further two people in the disturbance.

The report, which could not be independently verified, gave no details about what could have sparked the violence. It said a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked people in a market in Yecheng county.

Chinese authorities have blamed militants of Uighur descent for outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang in recent years. Uighurs are ethnic Turks who are linguistically, culturally and religiously distinct from China's majority Han population.

Beijing claims overseas-based militant Uighur groups linked to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement that allegedly trains in Pakistan have been fomenting trouble in the region.

The rioting coincides with the opening of a new 3.64 billion yuan ($579 million) highway linking Kashgar to Yecheng which lies 155 miles (258 km) to the south of the city.

In December, Chinese authorities killed seven Uighurs in a bid to free two hostages kidnapped in the rural county of Pishan, near Yecheng, in an incident which the Stockholm-based World Uighur Congress disputes.

The WUC said the deaths occurred when police opened fire on a demonstration outside a police bureau where Uighurs were protesting a recent security crackdown in Hotan city.

Xinjiang was rocked by the worst violence in decades in July 2009 when rioting between Uighurs and Han Chinese left nearly 200 people dead and 1,700 injured in the regional capital Urumqi.

The massive security clampdown in the wake of the violence has angered many Uighurs, who make up more than half of the 9 million people that live in the far western region of China, who say police have been behind a series disappearances.

Authorities in Xinjiang said last month they plan to recruit 8,000 extra police officers as China strengthens security in the run-up to a major leadership transition later this year.

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