A minor Chinese newspaper has for the first time reported on a violent confrontation last week between security forces and "terrorists" in Xinjiang, in which at least 22 people were killed, according to exile sources.
The Kashgar Daily reported  on Wednesday on a memorial service earlier this week for Yan Xiaofei, a 32-two year old police officer who died during a security forces raid on a “gang of terrorists” in a building in Yecheng county, Kashgar prefecture, which borders on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The newspaper, run by the local Communist Party committee, said Yan was killed during the "disposing of a violent terrorist gang on August 20". "He charged ahead with the battle in front of him, courageously and fearlessly braving death," the report said.
In addition to 22 killed in the raid, four others were arrested, said Radio Free Asia’s Uygur service earlier this week, citing local sources. The report also mentioned that the building where the raid took place had been monitored by a security forces’ helicopter for a week.
On the day after the raid, a Kashgar court sentenced nine people to jail for inciting racial hatred and ethnic discrimination, according to a local media report.
The clash and its resulting convictions point to growing ethnic unrest in the restive Western region. Earlier this month, a Kashgar court sentenced two men to death and jailed three more for participating in a clash in April in which 21 people were killed.
A clash in Turpan prefecture on June 26 had left 35 people dead. Two days later, Chinese security forces fired into a crowd of hundreds of people demonstrating against the closure of a mosque in Hotan prefecture, exile groups reported.
Rebiya Kadeer, the leader of the World Uyghur Congress, an exiled Uyghur rights advocacy group, condemned the extra-judicial killings in a statement.
Kadeer said China had failed to address the long-standing issues underlying the ethnic tensions, adding that the label of terrorism “only serves to exacerbate increasing distrust in the authorities due to the pervasive impunity of their actions”.