Four face execution for killings in China's Xinjiang

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Four men have been sentenced to death for a series of deadly attacks in Xinjiang, China's state-controlled media has reported.

The attacks, which occurred between August and November last year, killed nine people and wounded 15.

The Xinjiang Daily website said the sentences had been approved by China's highest court, meaning they could be carried out at any time.

Xinjiang, in China's north-west, hosts an ethnic Uighur separatist movement.

The worst attack, on the outskirts of Aksu near China's border with Kyrgyzstan, took place on 19 August last year.

A vehicle crammed with explosives was driven into a crowd, killing seven people and wounding others.

This incident has been attributed to two of those facing the death sentence, named as Tuerhong Tuerdi and Abudula Tueryacun.

Akeneyacun Nuer has been convicted of killing a policeman in the city of Khotan in November.

Abudukaiyoumu Abudureheman was found guilty of killing two people in Xinjiang's Hami region late last year with a home-made gun, the Xinjiang Daily said.

The four men are assumed to be Uighur separatists seeking independence from Chinese rule.

In 2009, deadly ethnic riots erupted in Xinjiang after tensions flared between the Muslim Uighur minority and the Han Chinese.

There have also been a number of blasts in Xinjiang in the past, which the government blames on Uighur separatists.

But Uighur activists and human rights groups accuse Beijing of using the issue to crack down on Uighur dissidents, who have complained that waves of Han Chinese migrants have marginalised the Uighur culture.

China has poured troops into Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia, since the unrest in July 2009 in Urumqi which left about 200 people dead.

Rights group Amnesty International says more than 1,000 people have been detained in the wake of the violence.

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