Nine persons “armed with axes and knives” were shot dead by police after they attacked a township police station in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, State media reported on Sunday.

Two policemen were killed in the attack and two other officers were injured, the Xinjiang government said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The government said a mob of nine persons armed with axes and knives had attacked a police station in the Seriqbuya township (Selibuya in Chinese) in Maralbexi (Bachu in Chinese), a county in southwestern Xinjiang, on Saturday evening.

It remained unclear whether the attack was linked to violence in Bachu in April, when the government said 15 persons, including police officers and community workers, were killed. The government said then that six “mobsters” who were allegedly planning a terror attack had been shot dead, and eight others arrested, after they attacked a group of community volunteers who had discovered knives and explosives during a home inspection.

Chinese officials have blamed separatist groups for organising a number of recent attacks in Xinjiang, which is home to the Uighur Muslim ethnic minority. Last month, Chinese authorities blamed the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for organising an attack in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, where a jeep carrying three Uighurs drove into a crowd and burst into flames, killing two tourists.

The southern Xinjiang prefecture of Kashgar, where Bachu is located, has witnessed intermittent violence, including knife and bomb attacks in 2011 that left more than 20 killed.

Located in the southern Uighur heartland, the region has also seen growing ethnic tensions between Uighurs and the increasing number of majority Han Chinese migrants.

Local Uighurs have complained of religious restrictions, including recent campaigns aimed at discouraging locals from wearing veils, growing beards or fasting during the month of Ramadan. Ethnic tensions spilled over into riots in July 2009 in the regional capital, Urumqi, that left at least 197 people killed.

The Xinjiang government has blamed the incidents on separatist groups, and pledged to crack down on instability and boost security measures in the region.

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