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Chinese Police Shoot Dead 12 Uyghur Rioters, Governor Says

URUMQI, China (Reuters) -- Chinese police shot and killed 12 Uyghur rioters in Xinjiang this month, regional governor Nuer Baikeli has said, in a rare government admission of deaths inflicted by security forces.

In Xinjiang's worst ethnic unrest in decades, Uyghurs attacked majority Han Chinese in regional capital Urumqi on July 5 after taking to the streets to protest against an ethnic clash at a factory in south China in June which left two Uyghurs dead.

The violence left 197 people dead and more than 1,600 wounded, mostly Han Chinese who launched revenge attacks in Urumqi days later. About 1,000 people, mostly Uyghurs, have been detained in an ensuing government crackdown.

Asked to elaborate on the casualties, the governor said most of the victims sustained head wounds after they were bludgeoned with bricks and iron rods.

Police shot dead 12 armed Uyghurs attacking civilians and ransacking shops after they ignored warning shots fired into the air, said Nuer Baikeli, a Uyghur, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia.

Of the 12, three were killed on the spot, while nine died either on their way to or after arriving at hospital.

"In any country ruled by law, the use of force is necessary to protect the interest of the people and stop violent crime. This is the duty of policemen. This is bestowed on policemen by the law," the governor said.

Police exercised the "greatest restraint," he added.