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Violence hits China's west ahead of anniversary

Violent attacks have spread this week in a tense minority region of western China, state media reported Saturday, just days before the anniversary of a bloody clash between minority Uighurs and the ethnic Han majority that left almost 200 dead and resulted in a major security clampdown.

China's communist authorities have labeled some of the incidents -- including one which left 35 people dead -- as terrorist attacks, and President Xi Jinping has ordered that they be promptly dealt with to safeguard overall social stability, state media reported.

The latest violent incidents were reported in southern Xinjiang's Hotan area. In one, more than 100 knife-wielding people mounted motorbikes in an attempt to storm the police station for Karakax county, the state-run Global Times reported.

Another was an attack mob in the township of Hanairike on Friday afternoon, according to the news portal of the Xinjiang regional government. It said the mob was armed, but did not say with what sort of weapons.

The official Xinhua News Agency reported a "violent attack" Friday afternoon on a pedestrian street in downtown Hotan city. No casualties were reported for any of the incidents, which state media say were quickly brought under control. The government's news portal, Tianshan Net, said there was no civilian casualty in Hanairike.

It has not been possible to independently verify the reports because of tight controls over information in the region.

The incidents on Friday in Xinjiang came after what the government described as attacks on police and other government buildings on Wednesday in eastern Xinjiang's Turpan prefecture's Lukqun township killed 35 people.

That was one of the bloodiest incidents since the July 5, 2009, unrest in the region's capital city, Urumqi, killed nearly 200.

Xinjiang (shihn-jeeahng) is home to a large population of minority Muslim Uighurs (WEE'-gurs) in a region that borders Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has been the scene of numerous violent acts in recent years.

Critics often attribute the violence in Xinjiang to what they say is Beijing's oppressive and discriminatory ethnicity policies. Many Uighurs complain that authorities impose tight restrictions on their religious and cultural life.

The Chinese government says that it has invested billions of dollars in modernizing the oil- and gas-rich region and that it treats all ethnic groups equally.

Calls to local government agencies were either unanswered or returned with the answer that they were unauthorized to speak.

State-run media reported that the incident Wednesday started when knife-wielding assailants targeted police stations, a government building and a construction site -- all symbols of Han authority in the region.

Photos released in state media show scorched police cars and government buildings and victims lying on the ground, presumably dead.

An exiled Uighur activist has disputed that account, saying the violence started when police raided homes. It was impossible to independently confirm the conflicting accounts.

Xinhua said 11 assailants were shot dead, and that two police officers were among the 24 people they killed.

"This is a terrorist attack, there's no question about that,'' Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday at a regular news briefing. "As to who masterminded it, local people are still investigating."

State news reports did not identify the ethnicity of the attackers, nor say what may have caused the conflict in the Turkic-speaking region. The reports said police captured four injured assailants.

The Global Times newspaper said Saturday that police had stepped up security measures, deploying more forces to public areas, governmental institutes and compounds for police and military police. It said a suspect was captured Friday afternoon in Urumqi.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, questioned Beijing's account of the event, saying local residents had told him police had forcefully raided homes at night, triggering the deadly conflicts. (AP)