12 killed as Uighurs protest against Chinese rulers

At least 12 people were killed in riots yesterday in the tense north-western region of Xinjiang, Chinese state media reported.

No details were given about what might have set off the violence near the city of Kashgar, although Xinjiang sees periodic outbreaks of anti-government violence by members of the region's native Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

The Xinhua News Agency said rioters armed with knives attacked people in Yecheng county outside the city starting at about 6pm. They killed 10 people and police shot dead two assailants, it said.

Xinhua said security forces were chasing others involved in the attacks but did not say how many suspects there were. The report could not be independently confirmed.

The periodic attacks in the region occur despite a smothering security presence imposed following riots in the regional capital of Urumqi in 2009 that pitted Uighurs against migrants from China's majority Han in which almost 200 people died.

Xinjiang saw more deadly violence last summer, when a group of Uighurs stormed a police station in the city of Hotan in July and took hostages, killing four. Days later Uighurs in Kashgar hijacked a truck, set a restaurant on fire and stabbed people in the street.

Economic marginalisation and restrictions on Uighur culture and the Muslim religion are said to be breeding frustration and anger among young Uighurs.