Twenty-one people, including police officers and social workers,
have been killed in violent clashes in China's ethnically divided
western region of Xinjiang in what the government is calling an
act of terrorism, Al Jazeera reported.
Police were investigating an arson attack in the region where the
violence began. "The region has been the focal point for ethnic
and racial tensions for quite some time now," Al Jazeera's Marga
A local official confirmed to the
AFP news agency on Wednesday that the battle had taken place.
"Twenty-one persons were killed in
all... including social workers and policemen," the official said.
He told the news agency that the
violence broke out on Tuesday when three local officials reported
a group of suspicious men armed with knives hiding inside a home
in Selibuya township outside the city of Kashgar.
Tianshan Net, a government-run news
website, described the fighting as a "violent terror incident".
It said 15 of those killed were either police or social workers,
with 11 of them being members of China's Uighur ethnic minority,
who mainly live in Xinjiang.
Six "gang members" were shot dead in
the violence, while eight more were captured, the report said.
The source who spoke to AFP
confirmed the contents of the report, but said he did not know how
many police were among the dead.
The incident points to the chaotic
nature of much of the Xinjiang violence, as well as problems with
how authorities respond. Armed units are often stationed in larger
towns and barracks and must be specially summoned by commanders
before they can respond.