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Twelve dead in fresh violence in China's Xinjiang province: Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police shot dead six people during a "terrorist" attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang and six more died when explosives they were carrying detonated, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Police came under attack on Friday by a group throwing explosive devices in Xinhe county, Xinhua said, citing local authorities, the latest violence to jolt the region with a large Muslim population.

"During the process of tackling a terrorist case in Xinhe county on January 24, they were attacked by thugs who were throwing explosive devices," Xinhua said. Five suspects were captured and one policeman was slightly injured.

Xinjiang has been the theatre of numerous incidents of unrest in recent years, which the government often blames on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement, though experts and rights groups cast doubt on its existence as a cohesive group.

At least 91 people, including several policemen, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to state media reports.

Many rights groups say China has overplayed the threat posed by activists from the large Uighur minority, Moslems who speak a Turkic language, to justify tough controls in energy-rich Xinjiang. The region lies on the borders of ex-Soviet Central Asia, India and Pakistan.

Eleven people believed to be members of a militant group of ethnic Uighurs were killed in Kyrgyzstan after illegally crossing into the former Soviet republic from China, Kyrgyz border guards said on Friday.

(Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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