Police in China's restive far western region of Xinjiang say eight attackers were shot dead during in assault on a police station, raising the death toll from violent clashes in the province to at least 35 since November.
Authorities also said one of the nine attackers was captured in Monday's pre-dawn attack. There was no mention of any police casualties.
“At around 6:30 am, nine thugs carrying knives attacked a police station in Kashgar's Yarkand county, throwing explosive devices and setting police cars on fire,” the regional government said in a statement.
“The police took decisive measures, shooting dead eight and capturing one,” it added, labeling the incident a “violent terrorist attack” which was being investigated.
The deadly incident took place in an area known as Yarkand, not far from the city of Kashgar.
Earlier this month, police shot and killed 14 people during a riot near Kashgar.
In a similar outburst of violence, at least nine civilians and two policemen were killed when a group of people armed with axes and knives attacked a police station, also near Kashgar, last month, state media has said. At least 91 people, including several police officers, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since April, according to state media reports.
The latest attack showed the serious threat posed by separatism, extremism and terrorism, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters at a regular press briefing.
“The Chinese government will strike hard against them in accordance with the law,” Qin said.
Many Uighurs chafe at restrictions on their culture, language and religion, though the government insists it grants them broad freedoms.
Rights groups and exiles say police often use often heavy-handed tactics against the Uighur community. Violence has broken out previously when groups of Uighurs protest at police stations, they say.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the main Uighur exile group, the World Uyghur Congress, said the international community should prevent China from continuing its “repressive policies” against Uighurs.
“Directly firing on and killing protesters and accusing them of so-called terror is currently China's post-judicial reform means of repressing the Uighur people. Uighurs endure China's discrimination and humiliation and are facing a crisis for survival and faith,” he said in a statement.
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle plowed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing three people in the car and two bystanders.
China said that attack was carried out by Islamist militants.
Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous incidents of unrest in recent years, which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, even though many experts and rights groups cast doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.
Many rights groups say China has long overplayed the threat posed to justify its tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang, which lies strategically on the borders of Central Asia, India and Pakistan.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.