A deadly confrontation in China's ethnically divided Xinjiang region has left 21 people dead, in what government officials are calling a "terrorist attack," Reuters reports. The Xinjiang government says the violence was sparked after community workers found a number of knives in the house of local Uighurs; it says 14 of them "rioted" with knives and axes, killing 15 police officers and social workers. "The community people were just conducting regular checks, but the action from the rioters was planned and well prepared," says the official.
Six of the "gang members" were shot dead, al-Jazeera reports. However, a spokesperson for the World Uighur Congress says the riot ensued only after a young Uighur was shot first by authorities. The area has a history of civil unrest between the local minority Muslim Uighur community and the ruling Han Chinese. As the BBC points out, restrictions on foreign journalists in the politically charged area make it difficult to verify either side's story, and it reports that the government has provided little proof that the violence is organized terrorism rather than the result of long-simmering resentment. For more information, the BBC has also compiled a useful primer on the history of Uighur-China relations in Xinjiang.