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27 dead in ethnic riots in northwest China

June 26, 2013|By Julie Makinen

BEIJING -- Twenty-seven people were killed in riots early Wednesday in northwest China, state-run media reported.

The unrest in Xinjiang -- where Uighurs, a Muslim minority, have repeatedly clashed with Han Chinese settlers -- began around 6 a.m., the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing local authorities.

Communist Party officials in the region told the news agency that knife-wielding mobs attacked a police station, a government building and a construction site in Lukqun township, stabbing people and setting fire to police cars.

The township is in Turpan Prefecture, about 176 miles southeast of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. In April, 21 people including 15 police and local officials, were killed in Xinjiang in what Chinese authorities described as a raid on a separatist group that turned deadly.

Xinjiang is approaching the four-year anniversary of riots in 2009 that left 197 people dead; those clashes were the deadliest outbreak of ethnic violence in China in decades.

Microblog dispatches reporting details from the scene Wednesday indicated that the violence was well-organized and may have been “revenge” for an incident involving the death of two Uighur workers at an east coast toy factory on the night of June 25 or morning of June 26, 2009. Protests over those two deaths triggered the mass riot in Xinjiang two weeks later.

Dilxat Rexit, a Sweden-based spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, said in a phone interview that there had been outbreaks of violence in Turpan recently. Earlier this year, he said, a Uighur youth was beaten to death by Han Chinese, an incident that escalated tensions between the two ethnic groups.

"The cause of today’s incident is from the continuous oppression and incitement from the Chinese government," he said. "To avoid this kind of instability, the international community should pressure China to abandon the policies that have led to the current crisis."

In Wednesday’s violence, seventeen people were killed -- including nine policemen or security guards and eight civilians -- before police shot dead 10 rioters, Xinhua said. Three people were detained at the scene.

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Nicole Liu and Tommy Yang in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.

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