Deadly clashes in China’s Xinjiang

Clashes in China’s restive Xinjiang region have left 21 people dead, including 15 police and officials, the local government says.

The incident occurred on Tuesday afternoon in Bachu county, Kashgar, a statement on the official Xinjiang government website said.

It began when officials searched homes for weapons, it said. Six “gang members” were among the dead, it said.

A Xinhua report said “violent attacks” had caused deaths, but did not expand.

There have been sporadic clashes in Xinjiang in recent years amid rumbling ethnic tensions between the Muslim Uighur and Han Chinese communities. In 2009 almost 200 people were killed after deadly rioting erupted.

It is very difficult to verify reports from Xinjiang, reports the BBC’s Celia Hatton. Foreign journalists are allowed to travel to the region but frequently face intimidation and harassment when attempting to verify news of ethnic rioting or organised violence against government authorities.

China’s propaganda departments have also warned domestic news outlets against conducting their own independent reporting on sensitive Xinjiang stories, ordering them to reprint official stories from China’s major state news agencies, our correspondent adds.

According to the statement, the clash was sparked as officials described as community workers searched homes for weapons and were then taken hostage.

Eight other “gang members” were captured, it said. Ten of the officials and police killed were ethnic Uighurs, it said.