By Adam Jourdan
SHANGHAI, June 21 (Reuters) - Police shot dead 13 attackers in China's restive Xinjiang region after they rammed a car into a police station and detonated explosives, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday, in the latest of a series of attacks to worry Beijing.
Xinjiang is the traditional home of Muslim Uighurs who speak a Turkic language, and China has blamed previous attacks on Islamist separatists it says seek to establish an independent state there called East Turkestan.
Three police officers were "lightly wounded" in the attack on Saturday morning, but there were no casualties among the public, the news agency said citing the local government.
"The gangsters drove a vehicle to ram the building of the public security bureau of Yecheng County in southern Xinjiang and set off explosives," it said.
In 2012, seven attackers were shot dead after killing 13 people in a knife attack in Yecheng, also known by its Uighur name of Kargilik, a remote town on the road leading to China's mountainous border with Pakistan.
China has been on edge since a suicide bombing last month killed 39 people at a market in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi. In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.
The rise in violence has prompted a crackdown on violent crime. Authorities in Xinjiang have arrested or tried dozens of suspects in recent weeks for spreading extremist propaganda, possessing banned weapons and other crimes.
China also executed over a dozen people for terrorist attacks in the region earlier this month and three others for an attack on Beijing's central Tiananmen Square.
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Resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, Xinjiang has been plagued by violence for years, but exiled Uighur groups and human rights activists say the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang have provoked unrest, something Beijing denies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said earlier this year that the Kashgar region, which sits in the far west of Xinjiang, is "the front line in anti-terrorism". The Silk Road city of Kashgar has been at the centre of much of the unrest in the region. Yecheng is in the Kashgar prefecture, and is more than 1,500 kilometres southwest of Urumqi.
Chinese leaders have also been directing investment into Xinjiang. President Xi pledged last month to alleviate poverty and improve ethnic unity in the region, the most direct indication yet that China's leaders want to address the causes of violence in the area. (Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)