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Civilians and armed police officer killed in NW China violence

Violence in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, has left at least three civilians and an armed police officer dead yesterday, sources with the regional government said early today.

The regional government is still calculating the exact number of casualties in the event.

Some civilians and armed police officers were injured and many motor vehicles and shops were smashed and burned, the sources said.

The situation is basically under control, it added.

"They took to the street, not peacefully, carrying knives, wooden batons, bricks and stones," said Wang Yaming, who was attacked by several rioters, but then saved by a group of Uygur citizens.

A taxi driver, whose surname was Zhao, told Xinhua that he was assaulted by about 20 young people with batons rushing out of an alley.

"They beat me badly and took my mobile phone and money away, then they smashed the window of my car," he said.

"At around 9pm, eight- to- nine Uygurs besieged me near Shiqihu Road. They asked me which ethnic group I belonged to. I told them I was a Han and then was beaten by them," said Wang Kunding, in the regional People's Hospital.

Wang said he was beaten to the ground and suffered fractures of the legs and arms. He was unable to move. He was taken to the regional People's Hospital at 1:30am today in the car of a Xinhua reporter.

Groups of rioters were seen in the streets in downtown Urumqi at around 8:20pm yesterday. They overthrew isolation guardrails on roads, and began to beat pedestrians of the Han ethic group. They attacked buses with batons and rocks, a Xinhua reporter witnessed.

An injured person was seen by a Xinhua reporter lying under the Tuanjie Road viaduct, bleeding. On another street, a woman lay dead, with a bag on her back.

On Xinhua South Road, a sedan and a truck were overthrown. Their windows were smashed and doors seriously damaged. At the entrance of an alley to the road onlookers, mostly of ethnic minorities, shouted.

Rioters also set fire to a hotel near the office building of the regional foreign trade committee. At least 30 buses and sedans were vandalized.

According to Xinhua reporters at the scene, some people of the ethnic minorities, when finding the Han citizens were attacked, offered to help lead them to safe areas. They also stopped passersby from coming too close to the violence.

As of 10:45pm yesterday, the regional Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital had received 37 injured people. The head of the hospital said under the condition of anonymity that the injured included people of the both Han and Uygur ethnic groups.

Doctors said attackers used long knives, bricks, rocks or wooden bars.

One of the injured was in critical condition while the others had no life-threatening injuries, the hospital head said, adding ambulances were still carrying injured people to the hospital.

Mastermind behind violence

Initial investigations showed the violence was masterminded by the separatist World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer, according to the regional government.

Rebiya Kadeer, a former businesswoman in China, was detained in1999 on charges of harming national security. She was released on bail on March 17, 2005 to seek medical treatment in the United States.

"The violence is a preempted, organized violent crime. It is instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country," a government statement said early today.

According to the government, the World Uyghur Congress has recently been instigating an unrest via the Internet, calling on supporters "to be braver" and "to do something big."

Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said in a televised speech this morning that three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism made use of a fight between Uygur and Han ethnic workers in a toy factory in Guangdong Province on June 26, in which two Uygur workers died, to creat chaos.

Nur Bekri said the bodies of the two Uygur workers in the factory fight have been sent back by plane to Xinjiang for burial. Police in Xinjiang and Guangdong are jointly investigating the incident.

The government of Shaoguan City, where the toy factory is located, and the factory are trying their best to help Uygur workers go back to work as soon as possible, he added.

The fight was triggered by the sexual of a female Han worker assault by a Uygur coworker, he said.

Last evening, information began to spread on the Internet, calling for demonstration in the People's Square and South Gate in the Urumqi city. Yesterday, Rebiya called her accomplices in China for further instigation, according to the government statement.

Rioters came to the street at around 7pm yesterday. They gathered, marched and demonstrated, which developed into violent acts of beating, smashing, looting and burning in some places, said the official.

"We should bear in mind that stability is to the greatest interest of all people in China, including the 21 million-plus people from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang," he said.

Xinjiang, the far western autonomous region, is home to more than 10.96 million of ethnic minority people, including Uygur, Mongolian and Hui.
Traffic control

The Urumqi municipal government issued an urgent notice early this morning, announcing traffic control in certain areas to "maintain social order in the city and guarantee the execution of duty by state organs."

"From 1am to 8am on July 6, police will impose traffic control in certain areas in the city of Urumqi. Passage in these areas is not allowed for any vehicle," the notice reads.

"All the units and individuals shall help maintain social order as required by this notice. People who violate the notice will be detained and punished by police according to law. Those whose acts constitute a crime shall be subject to criminal liabilities according to law," says the notice.

Police have arrested some rioters, although the exact number of people arrested was still not available.

This year marks the region's 60th anniversary of peaceful liberation. But during the annual "two session" in March this year, Nur Bekri warned the security situation in the region would be "more severe."

"It's a time of celebration for Xinjiang people but hostile forces will not give up such an opportunity to sabotage," said the official.


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