Police yesterday killed eight "terrorists" who attacked officers with machetes and drove cars that carried gas cylinders they detonated as bombs in the restive northwestern Xinjiang region, state media said.
Three other assailants died carrying out the attack in Wushi county, Aksu prefecture, and four people were injured, according to the Tianshan news portal, which is run by the regional branch of the Communist Party.
The reports did not identify the ethnicity of the assailants, but it was the latest in a series of attacks pointing to growing unrest in the sprawling region. Xinhua said the assailants rode motorcycles and drove cars that carried liquefied natural gas cylinders they intended to use as suicide bombs. They attacked a team of police gathered at the gate of a park for a routine patrol in Wushi, Xinhua said, calling the assailants "terrorists".
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Beijing has typically described attacks in Xinjiang in recent months as being linked to radicals based overseas.
An exiled Uygur activist accused Beijing of labelling the attackers terrorists in order to justify the authorities' use of armed force against them.
"The cause of the Uygurs struggle is China's armed forces' use of violent raids and provocations," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the Germany-based World Uygur Congress.
In yesterday's incident, police fatally shot eight of the machete-wielding assailants and caught one of them, the Tianshan report said. Three other attackers died when they detonated the bombs, it said.
Two bystanders and two police officers were injured in the attack, while five police patrol vehicles were damaged, the report said. Photographs posted by Tianshan showed a military police jeep and a troop transporter that were heavily damaged, their windows shattered and fronts burned out.
An official from the Xinjiang government, who refused to give his name, confirmed the Xinhua report, but said he had no more details. Calls to Aksu prefecture's Communist Party propaganda department and Wushi county's party committee and police all rang unanswered, as did calls to Xinjiang's police and party departments.
Aksu was also the site of an attack last month in which assailants threw explosives at police in Xinhe county. Six people died in the explosions and six others were shot dead by police.