The attack occurred at 5:50 a.m. Wednesday in Lukqun Township in Shanshan County in the autonomous region’s Turpan Prefecture. Rioters killed 24 people, including two police officers.
Among the victims, 16 were from the Uygur ethnic group.
The rioters attacked the township’s police stations, a local government building and a construction site, as well as set fire to police cars. Twenty-one police officers and civilians were injured.
The police shot and killed 11 rioters at the scene and captured another four who were injured.
A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, the Munich-based group which advocates Xinjiang independence, told Bloomberg’s Joshua Fellman that “the international community should take immediate steps to request China to stop all policies that cause unrest.”
The New York Times noted that the Chinese government often calls violent incidents in Xinjiang terrorist attacks. Tensions in the region have simmered since a 2009 outbreak of deadly riots between Uyghur minorities and ethnic Han Chinese. The Chinese government has attempted to curb Uyghur influence and prevent what it views as the threat of radical islam on its western frontier, and has sentenced a number of Uyghurs to jail on extremist and separatist charges in recent months.
The violence has also escalated recently – 20 were reportedly killed in February during fighting in Yechang, a town about 150 miles from the Pakistan border, amid allegations that police had set up checkpoints and were rounding up Uyghurs. And more recently, a confrontation between officials and police and armed men in April left 21 people dead in Kashgar.