At least 27 people were killed in riots in China’s far-western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, State media reported on Wednesday.
“Knife-wielding” mobs had attacked a police station, a local government office and a construction site in the township of Lukqun, located in the Turpan prefecture which lies southeast of the provincial capital Urumqi and is a popular tourist destination for its famed grapes.
The State-run Xinhua news agency said attackers had stabbed people and set fire to cars.
While 17 people were killed in the violence, a further 10 people were shot dead by police who opened fire on the mob, Xinhua reported.
Among the 17 killed were nine policemen and security guards. Local authorities said they had detained three people at the scene, while three others were being treated at a hospital.
Wednesday’s is only the latest of a series of violent incidents in Xinjiang in recent years.
Only in April, 21 people were killed in the southern Kashgar prefecture, which has witnessed intermittent violence in the cities of Kashgar and Hotan. Officials said in that incident too, a group armed with knives had killed 10 police officers and five community workers.
Authorities have tended to blame the recent incidents, including the April violence, on separatist and terrorist groups in Xinjiang, some of which have links to groups in Pakistan.
Many Uighur scholars however say many of the recent clashes are a result of ethnic tensions between local Uighurs, an ethnic Turkic Muslim group, and the increasing number of majority Han Chinese migrants. They have also blamed high unemployment rates among the local population and resentment at some religious restrictions, such as recent rules prohibiting Uighur students and government workers from following Ramadan and campaigns to restrict the wearing of headscarves, as further fanning unrest.
The biggest violence in recent years saw at least 200 people killed in the provincial capital, Urumqi, in July 2009 in riots between Uighurs and Han.
Authorities said investigations into Wednesday's violence were still under way.