Chinese police killed three 'violent terror suspects' in the western Xinjiang region in the latest clash with Islamist militants, the government said on Monday. The government claims that the separatists in Xinjiang, which is the home ground to the Muslim Uighur minority, aim to form their own state called East Turkestan. The militants have links with the extremists abroad, including in Asia and the Middle East.
The Tianshan Net official news site quoted the Xinjiang government saying that the security officers in the southern Xinjiang city of Hotan encountered violent resistance late on Sunday while pursing three members of a "violent terror gang". The city of Hotan is a one-time Silk Road outpost considered part of the Uighur heartland.
"We shot the thugs dead at the scene. There were no casualties on our side," the government said. It added that the suspects were wanted in connection with an incident in April 2015. However, it did not disclose any further details.
In recent years, hundreds of people have been killed in violence between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese on the borders of central Asia and Pakistan. The government has blamed the unrest on militants but the rights groups and exiles blame the Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Uighurs for the violence.
China denies any repression in Xinjiang and in the recent months it has been generally quiet as no major violence was reported. In December, the state media reported that the attackers set off an explosive device by driving a vehicle into a government building in Hotan and killed two people with knives before three assailants were shot dead.
Reports said the government has delayed reporting some previous incidents in Xinjiang. It puts limits on foreign journalists, making it almost impossible to reach an independent assessment of the region's security.
In September 2015, at least 16 people were killed in an attack on a coal mine but it was not reported by the government for two months. Later, it announced that its security forces had killed 28 of the "terrorists" involved.