BEIJING : Nine militants were shot dead and one captured in China’s restive far western region of Xinjiang on Friday, state media said, the latest bout of violence in a week in which dozens have been killed there.

The official Xinhua news agency said the incident happened in a rural area close to Hotan city in Xinjiang’s far south, when more than 30,000 civilians involved in a counter-terror operation with police saw ‘signs’ of a terror gang in a corn field.

‘Police and the 30,000 civilians in unison surrounded the terror gang, and forced them into an abandoned house,’ the report said. Explosive devices were thrown at both the police and civilians, and the police ‘took decisive action’ and shot dead the attackers, the report said. The operation had begun on Sunday when local people tipped police off about the existence of the gang, the report said. China usually uses terms like ‘terror gang’ to describe militants or separatists.

Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, who speak a Turkic language, has been beset for years by violence which the government blames on militants or separatists who it says want an independent state called East Turkestan. Exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, including controls on Islam, have provoked unrest - a claim Beijing denies.

Hundreds have been killed in Xinjiang in the past year and a half, and the past few days have seen a series of deadly incidents, including the murder of a prominent pro-government imam at a major mosque in the old Silk Road city of Kashgar. State media reported on Wednesday that a gang armed with knives had attacked a police station and government offices on Monday in the town of Elixku, in Shache county. The government said dozens of knife-wielding attackers were shot dead in Shache but has yet to give a full account of what happened in the county, which lies 200 km (125 miles) from Kashgar. Police appeared to be on high alert on Wednesday, pouring into Kashgar and closing off roads.