At least 27 people have been killed and three others injured after knife-wielding gangs went on the rampage through a town in far western China, according to state media.
The Xinhua news agency said mobs attacked police stations, a local government building and a construction site in the Turpan Oasis in the Turkic-speaking Xinjiang region.
Nine police officers and security guards, as well as eight civilians, were killed before police shot dead 10 of the attackers.
The death toll from the unrest was the worst in the restive region since July 2009, when nearly 200 people were killed in riots in the regional capital Urumqi, involving local predominantly Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese.
Xinhua said Wednesday’s unrest erupted at about 6am in the remote township of Lukqun, about 120 miles southeast of Urumqi.
Gangs attacked officials and civilians, stabbing people and setting fire to police vehicles, Xinhua reported.
Residents told Sky News there was a heavy police presence in the township. Search results for the words Xinjiang and Lukqun, in both English and Chinese, were unavailable on Chinese search engines.
The reasons for the attacks were not immediately clear, but Xinjiang has been the scene of numerous violent incidents in recent years.
The region is home to a large population of Uighurs, and the influx of China’s Han majority has led to unrest.
Many Uighurs, who have ethnic links to central Asia, accuse the Chinese government of placing restrictions on their culture, language and religion.
They also claim Beijing has encouraged the numbers of Han Chinese to rise in order to reduce the Uighurs’ dominance.
China says it grants Uighurs wide-ranging freedoms and is fighting separatist terrorists in the region. It also claims to be modernising the region, which has for many years been seen as a backwater.
In 2011, the China National Petroleum Corp announced it had started large scale exploration of an oil field around Lukqun, which is thought to be the world’s deepest heavy oil reserve.
In that same year, 113 oil wells were opened. Local people claim the water level has dropped in the last few years.
The report also said three rioters had been seized, and the police pursued fleeing suspects, although it did not say how many.