The Xinhua news agency, quoting reports by police, said the deaths occurred in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture. The province in northwestern China has seen conflict between native Uighurs, who are Muslim, and the Han Chinese, who make up the majority of China's population.
The province includes 10 million Uighurs and 8 million Han. When the Communist era began in China in 1949, only 220,000 Han were present in Xinjiang. Uighurs complain of high unemployment, discrimination by the Han, and harsh treatment by the police.
Monday a knife- and axe-wielding gang terrorized a city in southern Xinjiang before police shot and killed what Xinhua described as dozens of suspects. The incident was the latest in a series of incidents in the province, including two suicide bombings and the assassination Thursday of a prominent Uighur religious leader in the city of Kasghar.