BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese police said 14 "rioters" were among 18 people killed in a clash at a police station in the restive Xinjiang region, a government website reported on Wednesday, an account that more closely reflected the tally reported by an exile Uighur group.
Government officials previously said at least four people were killed in what they described as a terrorist attack but which the Germany-based exile group World Uyghur Congress said was an attack on peaceful protesters.
The group had said 20 Uighurs were killed -- 14 beaten to death and 6 shot dead -- and 70 arrested, when police opened fire on protesters, leading to fighting between the two sides.
The clash marked the worst violence in about a year in the far western region, home to many Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people native to the area that is strategically significant because of its oil, gas and coal deposits.
The Xinjiang government-run Website tianshannet.com said that police fatally shot the 14 rioters after giving "legal education and warnings," adding that 18 rioters had bought and made weapons and sneaked into the desert city of Hotan days before the clash on Monday.
The report said the rioters, armed with axes, knives, daggers, Molotov cocktails and explosive devices, "crazily beat, smashed and set on fire" the police station, and hung "flags of extreme religion" on the top of the station.
It said two policemen and two hostages were also killed in the clash, and that four of the rioters were arrested.
"It was an organized, premeditated and severe violent terrorist attack to local politics-and-law departments," the report said.
The differing accounts from the government and exile group could not be independently verified.
(Reporting by Sally Huang and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ken Wills)