Chinese authorities say 16 people, including two policemen, have been killed in a clash in China's far western region of Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.
The local government released a statement on its official Internet site saying police were attacked on Sunday by several people armed with explosives and knives as they were on their way to arrest criminal suspects near the town of Kashgar, in Xinjiang province.
“Police responded decisively,” the government said in a brief statement, adding that two people had also been detained and that an investigation had been launched. Two suspects have been detained.
In a separate incident last month, at least nine civilians and two policemen were killed when a group of people armed with axes and knives attacked a police station near Kashgar, state media reported.
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders.
China called the crash an attack carried out by Islamist militants from Xinjiang plotting holy war, and has reacted angrily to suggestions that it was because of frustration and anger over government repression of the region's Muslims.
Many of Xinjiang's Turkic-speaking, Muslim people chafe at restrictions on their culture, language and religion, although the government insists it grants them broad freedoms.
Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous incidents of unrest in recent years, which Beijing 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.