Police gunned down an unidentified number of rioters after they killed four people during an assault on a police station in the city of Hotan in northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Monday.
An armed policeman, a security guard and two hostages were killed by rioters, according to Ministry of Public Security sources. Another security guard was severely injured. The identities of the rioters were not revealed.
Hou Hanmin, chief of the regional information office, told the Global Times that it had been "an organized terrorist attack."
"The rioters carried explosive devices and grenades. They first broke into the offices of the local administration of industry and commerce and the taxation bureau that are close to the police station. They injured two persons there," Hou said.
"When they realized the targets were wrong, they started to attack the police station from the ground floor to the second floor where they showed a flag with separatist messages," Hou said.
The attackers then set the police station on fire with explosive devices and grenades, before killing hostages during a stand-off with armed police, Hou added.
The national counter-terrorism office of China has dispatched a working team to Xinjiang.
Rioters broke into the police station shortly after 12 pm. The police quickly converged on the scene and shot a number of attackers while freeing six hostages, the ministry said.
Wu Chen, 25, a teacher in a vocational school in Hotan, said the police station is located in a commercial hub and a religious center for local Uyghur people.
"The area is largely inhabited by Uyghur people. There is a mosque and also a bazaar for jade and carpets," Wu told the Global Times by phone.
Certain Western media have pointed to alleged "government repression" and police firing on peaceful protesters as the cause of the fighting.
The Chinese-language website of Radio France International reported Monday's attack but carried a photo which was taken two years ago bearing a misleading caption.
Li Wei, director of the Anti-Terrorism Institute at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations told the Global Times that threats to regional stability still exist.
"Terrorist groups such as the World Uyghur Congress and Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, as well as separatist groups within China, have never ceased their sabotage attempts," he said.
"Such an incident will impact people's psychology, but will not fundamentally affect the overall situation in Xinjiang," Li said.