At least 14 people were shot dead by police in violence in China's western Muslim majority Xinjiang region on Sunday night, State media reported.

State media said on Monday two police officers were killed when they attempted to arrest "criminal suspects" in Shufu, a county near the old Silk Road town of Kashgar in western Xinjiang.

The police were attacked by men armed with explosive devices and knives. They shot dead at least 14 people, the report said, adding that two others had been detained.

Chinese officials blamed the attack on terrorist groups. "The case is about the mobs who attacked public security forces with explosive devices. This case shows once again the anti-human and anti-society nature of terrorist groups," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing on Monday.

Ms. Hua defended the actions taken by police forces. "I can tell you that China is a country ruled by law," she said. "To protect people's lives and security, and crack down on crimes, is the sacred duty bestowed on the Chinese government by the Constitution and laws."

While the government has blamed several knife and bomb attacks on terrorists groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) - some of whose members are believed to be based out of Pakistan - many overseas Uighur groups say religious restrictions, such as campaigns to ban the wearing of veils and headscarves, and high local unemployment have fuelled tensions such as ethnic riots in 2009.

The government said three Uighurs had, in October, attempted a high-profile terror attack in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, when they drove a jeep into a crowd. At least two tourists were killed and 40 others injured.

Following the attack, the ETIM - which is also known as the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) - pledged to launch attacks on targets in the Chinese capital such as the Great Hall of the People.

In a video, TIP leader Abdullah Mansour, who, Chinese officials believe, may be hiding in Pakistan or Afghanistan, described the Tiananmen attack as "a jihadi operation".

Ms. Hua, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said terror attacks "would not win public support" in Xinjiang.

"In the Xinjiang region people are looking forward to leading a happy life but a handful of terrorist forces attempt to sabotage peace and stability," she said. "This kind of attempt will not win public support, and is doomed to failure."

Keywords: XinjiangKashgarUighurs

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