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At least 12 killed in violence in China's restive Xinjiang region

More than a dozen people have died in fresh violence in China's troubled western region of Xinjiang. The area has seen a spate of recent clashes between police and ethnic minority Muslim Uighurs.

Chinese state media say that a number of people died on Friday in separate incidents in the Xinjiang region.

Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday that one person was killed and two injured in two blasts at a market and hair salon in the Uighur town of Xinhe in the Aksu prefecture, with two more dying inside a car that exploded when police were trying to apprehend it.

Officials in neighboring Kyrgyzstan said another 11 ethnic Uighur men from Xinjiang were shot dead crossing the border from China. They said nine were killed by a Kyrgyz border guard unit, while two others were shot by a local hunter.

The Munich-based World Uighur Congress has called for a "full, transparent and independent" investigation into the shootings.

In another incident, assailants threw explosives at police in Xinhe county, triggering a clash in which police shot dead six people, according to the Tianshan news portal, run by the regional Communist Party.

Ethnic unrest

Xinjiang has experienced a number of clashes in recent months triggered by the resentment felt by minority Uighurs who claim they are discriminated against by Chinese majority Han people. The government has responded by cracking down on what it says is terrorism caused by radical Islamic separatists.

In one high-profile incident,

a car ploughed into a crowd

and burst into flames, killing three Uighur occupants and two bystanders at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in November. The government immediately linked the attack to a Uighur terrorist organization, but Uighur exile groups said the driver, his wife and mother may have had a personal grudge over the demolition of part of his local mosque.

Last year, clashes between authorities and members of the minority group left scores dead, including 40 police officers.

Uighurs make up about 8 million of Xinjiang's 21.8 million people.

tj/rc (AP, dpa)

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