Chinese state media say violence in China's mainly Muslim Uighur region of Xinjiang resulted in nearly 100 deaths last Monday. Exile Uighurs say, however, that China often distorts its accounts.
China's official Xinhua news agency said on Sunday that 37 civilians and 59 "terrorists" had been killed in two incidents reported from China's vast western region early this week.
If verified, the official account would represent the worst joint outbreak of violence since rioting in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi in 2009.
When news of clashes first emerged late on Tuesday, Xinhua had reported that dozens of people had been killed and injured by a knife-wielding gang.
In its report Sunday, Xinhua said 35 of the dead civilians were Han Chinese and two were Uighurs.
A spokesman for the exiled World Uighur Congress, Dilxat Raxit, told the news agency AFP that Chinese forces had opened fire, killing or wounding nearly 100 people.
Independent verification is difficult to get from the vast resource-rich region. Rights groups accuse China of repressing Uighur cultural and religious aspirations, resulting in unrest.
Beijing has in the past blamed separatists in Xinjiang for a China sentences three people to death over Tiananmen attack series of attacks. Among the more serious was a fatal assault on a market in Urumqi in May, when 39 people were killed.
A deadly rampage by knife-wielding assailants left 29 dead in March at Kunming in China's southwest.
Xinjiang's Uighur people speak a Turkic language.
ipj/tj (Reuters, AFP)