Chinese security forces have killed 17 people, mostly Uighur Muslims, in the restive Xinjiang province for their alleged involvement in a recent coal mine attack. Radio Free Asia cited Xinjiang police as saying that three men said to be ringleaders and their family members were among the dead.

"I heard from colleagues who participated in the operation that the military blew up the cave where the suspects were hiding," police officer Ghalip Memethe said. "That is why we were able to kill all of them with zero victims [from our side]. Seventeen corpses were gathered after the explosion," he added.

The attack at the Sogan colliery in Aksu had led to at least 50 deaths, mostly Han Chinese.

Before launching the ongoing operation in Xinjiang, China had appealed for international help to combat separatists in the region dominated by the Uighur people.

China's Ministry of Public Security initially said on its website that 17 terrorists were killed on the 56th day of operations in the region but did not provide any details. The announcement was later removed from the website.

China is often accused of curbing the religious and cultural freedoms of the Uighurs, a charge Beijing denies.