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SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Three knife-wielding attackers have killed five people and injured five others in China's far western region of Xinjiang before police killed the "thugs", a regional government said.

The attack took place on Tuesday evening in Pishan county in the restive southern part of Xinjiang, the government of Hotan prefecture said in a short statement on its website early on Wednesday.

"At present, social order is normal at the site, society is stable, and investigation work is under way," it said, without giving further details about the attackers or their motive.

Hundreds of people have been killed in recent years in resource-rich Xinjiang, on the borders of central Asia and Pakistan, in violence between members of the ethnic Uighur minority and majority Han Chinese.

The government has blamed much of the unrest on separatist Islamist militants, although rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of Muslim Uighurs is more to blame for the violence. China denies any repression in Xinjiang.

Hotan, a one-time Silk Road outpost, is considered part of the Uighur heartland.

(Reporting by John Ruwitch)

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Reuters