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BEIJING, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Police in China's restive far western region of Xinjiang shot dead "several terrorists" during an attack on Friday, state news agency Xinhua said, in the latest violence to hit a part of the country with a large Muslim population.
"The terrorists, riding motorbikes and cars, attacked a team of police who were gathering before the gate of a park for routine patrol at around 4 p.m. in Wushi County in the Aksu Prefecture," Xinhua said in an English-language report.
"Police said the terrorists had (an) unknown number of LNG cylinders in their car which they had attempted to use as suicide bombs. Several terrorists were shot dead at the scene," it added, without providing further details.
Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist militants and separatists who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
Exiles and many rights groups though say the real cause of the unrest is China's heavy-handed policies including restrictions on Islam and the Uighur people's culture and language, charges the government strongly denies.
China has stepped up security in Xinjiang after a vehicle ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders, unnerving the ruling Communist Party.
More than 100 people, including several policemen, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to state media reports. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)