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China Blames Terrorists for Deadly Clash in Xinjiang

China is blaming an Islamic "terror gang" for an incident during which police shot and killed 14 people in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Two policemen were also killed in the Sunday clash, which officials say broke out as police tried to arrest suspects near the town of Kashgar.

The official Xinhua news agency called the incident an "organized, pre-meditated, violent terror attack," noting that six people were arrested.

It said police believe the suspects were part of a 20-member terrorist group that had tested explosives and were planning attacks.

Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous incidents of deadly unrest, which Beijing often blames on foreign-backed Muslim Uighur separatists.

Exiled Uighur groups dispute the claim, saying China is exaggerating the threat in order to justify its repression of Muslim religious life.

Dili Xiati of the Uighur World Congress told VOA's Mandarin service China's decision not to blame the incident on outside groups is notable.

"For a long time, the Chinese government has blamed, without presenting any evidence, so called "overseas forces" for staging all riots within China. The international community has therefore generally questioned the claims China has made. We noticed that China has made some relevant change in this regard. It shows that at the end of the day China has come to face the reality," he said.

It is often difficult for foreign journalists to verify the claims made by either side, as Beijing severely restricts all but state-backed reporting in the region.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.)

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