A man accused of plotting a deadly knife and hatchet attack last month in China's restive Xinjiang region has been sentenced to death, judicial authorities said.
The man's name -- Abudukeremu Mamuti in Chinese -- suggested he was from the mainly Muslim Uighur minority that populates the northwestern region and has long complained of political and religious oppression under Chinese rule.
A court in Kashgar sentenced him to death on Monday for leading a "terrorist" group to a market in a remote town in Xinjiang on February 28, and hacking to death 15 people.
According to a statement posted on an official Xinjiang judicial website, the defendant started preaching "religious extremism" last year and recruited people to form a "terrorist group".
Then on February 28, he gathered all members at his home, armed them with knives and hatchets and took them to the market in Yecheng town -- which belongs to the wider Kashgar prefecture -- the statement said late Monday.
There, they killed 13 people on the spot and injured 16 others -- two of whom later died of their injuries. Mamuti was detained on the scene and seven other attackers were shot dead. One other suspect also later died.
A local police officer told AFP at the time of the attack that most of the victims were people from China's dominant Han ethnic group.
Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to around nine million Uighurs.
The number of Han living in Xinjiang has increased dramatically over the past decade, which government critics say results from a policy of migration to dilute any Uighur nationalist tendencies and has bred resentment in the region.
Xinjiang has been under heavy security since July 2009, when Uighurs launched attacks on Han people in the regional capital Urumqi.
The government says nearly 200 people were killed and 1,700 injured in the violence, which shattered the authoritarian Communist Party's claims of harmony and unity among the country's dozens of ethnic groups.
Many Uighurs remain angry at the harsh crackdown that followed the violence.
The government blames much of the violence in the resource-rich region on what it calls the three "evil forces" of extremism, separatism and terrorism.
But some experts doubt terror cells operate in Xinjiang, where the Turkic-speaking Uighurs practice a moderate form of Islam.