China has said 96 people were killed in last week's deadly violence in the country's Xinjiang province after a mob armed with axes and knives attacked government offices and burnt vehicles in the remote southern part of the region.
As many 59 of the dead – termed terrorists by official media – were gunned down by the police.
The violence occurred last Monday in the historic Kashgar area of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), but there was negligible official information about it till Sunday morning.
The province has been rocked by what many call ethnic violence in the recent past but last week's incident, as it emerged, has been one of the worst in terms of the death toll.
Quoting local government sources, official news agency Xinhua said investigations showed that it was an attack jointly "organised and premeditated" by terrorists both in and outside China… The mastermind behind the attack was identified as Nuramat Sawut from Elixku Township, who had close connections with the terrorist organization East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM)."
"Since the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the group had had multiple gatherings in remote places, during which they made attack plans and prepared tools for their violent acts," the report said.
The government divided the dead into civilians and terrorists; 37 civilians were killed of which 35 were from the Han community and two were Uyghurs.
Though the ethnicity of the "59 terrorists" were not revealed, it is likely that they were from the Muslim Uyghur community, more than 8 million of whom live in this country.
Exiled Uyghur and rights groups say Beijing has been steamrolling the community's unique culture and heritage over the years, slowly forcing them to give up their identity which, over the years, has led to simmering anger within the people.
Last month, the government had controversially banned many in the Uyghur community from fasting during Ramzan.
Beijing brushes aside such allegations, saying separatists based abroad and few terrorists in the region were fomenting trouble.