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Leading pro-government imam murdered in China, which killed 2 suspects and captured 3rd

China says a leading pro-government Muslim cleric in the volatile northwestern territory of Xinjiang was murdered and police killed two suspects and captured another.

The state media report late Thursday was the first official confirmation of the murder of Jume Tahir at dawn on Wednesday.

Tahir had led the Id Kah mosque in the city of Kashgar and was a strong supporter of government policy on Islam that critics say imposes harsh restrictions.

Violence has sharply increased in Xinjiang, where radicals among the native Turkic Muslim Uighur minority have long pursued a violent campaign to overthrow Chinese rule.

On Monday, the government said rampaging militants armed with knives and axes killed or injured dozens of people in Shache county near Kashgar.