Seven 'kidnappers' killed in China's Xinjiang

Xinjiang map

Authorities in China's restive Xinjiang region say seven kidnappers have been killed and two hostages rescued.

The deceased were believed to be part of a "terror gang", state media said. Four others were wounded and arrested.

The hostages were taken late on Wednesday in Pishan county, southern Xinjiang, a government spokesman told Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.

It was not clear if the incident was related to ethnic tensions and clashes in the area.

However an official from the Xinjiang government told the BBC that the two hostages were Uighur shepherds who were looking for missing goats in the mountain areas on Wednesday night when they were abducted by the gang - also Uighurs.

The official said it was an "individual incident".

Pishan, near the Taklamakan Desert, is located in the largely Muslim Uighur area of Xinjiang.

Many of the nine-million strong ethnic minority group are resentful of the Han Chinese and central government control of the region.

The Chinese authorities have long blamed violence in the resource-rich area on extremists and separatist factions aiming to establish an independent state for the Turkic-speaking population.

Police opened fire after the "gang" killed one officer and injured another in a stand-off, the Xinjiang government said on its official Weibo account.

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