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Rioting in western China: Why are 27 dead? (+video)

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An official reached by phone at the press office of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, the region's police, said she had only seen news of the violence on the Internet and had no information. Other officials at the county's propaganda department and police said they also had no details. Calls to the region's government spokeswoman, Hou Hanmin, rang unanswered.

Though it remained unclear what caused Wednesday's violence, police stations, government offices and other symbols of Han Chinese authority have been targets of attacks in the past. The attack occurred at 6 a.m., when most residents would still be asleep.

The report said three assailants were seized, and that police pursued fleeing suspects, though it did not say how many. It said three people were injured by the unrest and were being treated.

The violence came two months after a deadly clash in a town near Kashgar, elsewhere in Xinjiang, killed 21 people, including 15 police officers and community workers.

An overseas Uighur activist said Wednesday's conflict was triggered by the Chinese government's "sustained repression and provocation" of the Uighur community.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, said residents he contacted in neighborhoods about 30 kilometers (18 miles) outside the township said the area has been sealed by "armed forces" and telephone services appeared to be irregular. A heavy security deployment and disruption of communications services also followed the 2009 Urumqi riots.

Dilxat Raxit urged the international community to pressure China to "stop imposing policies in Xinjiang that cause turmoil." Many Uighurs complain that Beijing imposes tight restrictions on their religious and cultural life, barring children and women from attending mosques and discouraging fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which starts this year in early July.

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