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Imam tells of knife threat in Urumqi mosque disruption

AN imam of a mosque in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said yesterday that the three Uygur men who were shot by police on Monday had been attempting to disrupt worshippers and attacked a security guard.

The imam, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that about 150 Muslims were saying afternoon prayers in the mosque on Jiefang Road S. in Urumqi when one of the men stood up and unsuccessfully tried to grab the speaker from the imam.

Minutes later, the man stood up again, holding a green banner and shouting calls for "jihad." He also asked worshippers to follow him.

The imam said he decided to end the prayers and told the man: "We will definitely not follow you. Get out!"

No worshippers showed any intention of going with the man, the imam added.

When the man was ordered out of the mosque, two other men, who proved to be his partners, took out three knives about 50cm long from a bag and panicked worshippers.

Security guards of the mosque immediately came over to restore order. One of the Uygur guards, aged in his 40s, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said he ran with frightened worshippers and tried to lead the trouble makers away.

The guard was chased down the road by the men wielding knives.

The police were forced to shoot at the men after warning shots were ignored. Two died at the scene and the third was taken to the People's Hospital.

Meanwhile, China yesterday strongly demanded that unnamed "relevant countries" stop their support for East Turkistan terrorists in the wake of the Urumqi riots.

"We firmly oppose any support for the 'three forces' by any foreign countries or overseas organizations and demand they immediately cease the support," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The "three forces" are separatism, terrorism and extremism.

Qin said a large amount of evidence showed the "three forces" at home and abroad never ceased activities to sabotage China's national security and that "relevant countries" had provided them support and funding.

Qin did not elaborate on the "relevant countries."

But American State Department spokesman Ian Kelly confirmed at a press conference on Monday that a United States organization had provided funding for the World Uygur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer, which China believes was behind the Urumqi riots and a series of protests at Chinese embassies worldwide.

"I do know that her organization does receive funds from the National Endowment for Democracy, which receives its funds from Congress," Kelly told the press conference.

The deadly July 5 riot in Urumqi left at least 184 dead.

"We strongly demand that these countries should immediately stop their funding and support for the 'three forces' in any form," Qin said.

He said that the measures the Chinese government had taken to deal with the July 5 riots were not targeted at any ethnic group or religion and called on Muslim countries to see out the truth of the incident.

"If they realize the truth, they will understand China's ethnic and religious policies and the measures the Chinese government has taken to deal with the incident," Qin said.

He said China and Muslim countries had forged ties of mutual respect and support. "The relationships will move forward on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, particularly mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit."

Qin reiterated that China firmly opposed terrorism in any form and would work with other countries to combat terrorism and safeguard the security of Chinese personnel and organizations abroad.


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