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Chinese police shoot dead 13 after separatist attack on Xinjiang office building

Officials believe it was connected to the East Turkestan independence movement

Police in China have shot 13 people dead after a gang drove vehicles into an office building and set off explosives in an attack that injured three officers.

According to a news website for the regional government, no civilians were injured during the incident at a police building in Kashgar, in the western Xinjiang region, on Saturday.

The state’s Xinhua News Agency said one vehicle was used but did not provide details.

It was the latest in a series of attacks pointing to growing unrest in Xinjiang, where there is an ongoing struggle by separatist Uyghurs.

The rebellion, led my Turkic Islamist militants, wants autonomy from Beijing in the region that they call East Turkestan.

Last month, a market bombing killed 43 people in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, and there have been suicide bombs, knife attacks, car bombs and shootings this year alone.

Explosions rocked the market, killing 31

Chinese authorities have blamed the attacks on extremists bent on overthrowing Beijing's rule.

The government says the assailants have ties to foreign Islamist terrorist groups but has provided little direct evidence.

Officials have sought to stem the attacks by handing down heavy punishments to people accused of involvement.

Anyone suspected of organising, leading and participated in terror groups or committing arson, murder, burglary or illegally manufacturing explosives can be given the death sentence.

Earlier this month, 13 people were executed in Xinjiang for such crimes.

This screen grab taken from China Central Television shows the prisoners who were later sentenced to death at the Intermediate People's Court in the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi

Uyghur activists say public resentment against Beijing is fuelled by an influx of settlers from the Han majority in the region, economic disenfranchisement and restrictions on the ethnic group’s religious and cultural practices.

The Chinese government claimed it has made vast investments to boost the region's economy and improve living standards.

Separatist Uyghurs claim that the area, which borders Russia, is under Chinese occupation after an invasion in 1949 and the rebellion was supported by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Additional reporting by AP