Nine terror suspects killed in China's Xinjiang region: Xinhua

BEIJING (AFP) - The police in China's Xinjiang region shot dead nine suspected terrorists on Friday and captured one, state media said, days after one of the deadliest attacks to hit the restive area in recent months.

According to China's official Xinhua news agency, the suspects killed in Friday's showdown in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture had been identified by police on Sunday "during the investigation of a terrorist group".

Local residents aided in tracking the suspects down, and on Friday they were discovered in a cornfield in Karakax County, the report said.

Police shot dead the nine suspects and captured one of them after chasing the group to an abandoned house, where they "resisted arrest by throwing explosives into the crowd", according to Xinhua.

There were no police or civilian casualties, the report added.

The incident comes four days after a violent attack in Shache county that left dozens killed and injured.

More than 20 ethnic Uighurs were shot dead by armed authorities while 10 were injured, according to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress.

A total of 13 Chinese security personnel were killed and injured and about 67 people were arrested, Raxit said.

In other violence, Jume Tahir, the government-appointed head of the largest mosque in China, was murdered on Wednesday after leading morning prayers.

Tahir was killed in the city of Kashgar by "three thugs influenced by religious extremist ideology", according to the Xinjiang government web portal Tianshan.

Information in Xinjiang is often difficult to verify independently and the authorities and campaign groups often give competing versions of events, particularly when they involve clashes with police.

The region of Xinjiang in China's far west is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and Beijing has blamed a series of recent terror attacks on violent separatists from the vast, resource-rich area.

Such attacks have grown in scale and sophistication over the last year and have spread outside the restive region.

Among the most shocking was a May market attack in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in which 39 people were killed, and a deadly rampage by knife-wielding assailants at a train station at Kunming in China's southwest in March, which left 29 dead.

The violence has also included a fiery vehicle crash at Tiananmen Square, Beijing's symbolic heart, in October.

Rights groups accuse China's government of cultural and religious repression they say fuels unrest in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.