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July 20, 2009

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Police shot 12 rioters 'to protect the public'

POLICE shot 12 "mobsters" taking part in the July 5 riot in Urumqi to protect the public, the chairman of the regional government told reporters at the weekend.

Three of them died at the scene in the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the others died later, he said in an interview with foreign journalists.

Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region government, said that on the night of July 5, policemen "resolutely" shot the 12 after firing into the air had failed to disperse the "extremely vicious" thugs.

"The police showed as much restraint as possible during the unrest. Many of them were injured and a 31-year-old officer was killed. He was hit by mobsters in the head with a stone," he said.

He added that many innocent people suffered head injuries from thugs wielding iron rods, stones and bricks. Knives were also used.

Bekri said the authorities had never expected that a student parade could turn into such ferocious violence.

He said the local government had taken timely action to prevent emergencies as soon as they received information about the students' plan.

"But we could never imagine that the mobsters were so extremely vicious and inhumane. We really didn't expect that," he said.

He said they had prepared many weapons such as rods and stones and took action in various places at the same time, in a manner experts said was similar to terrorist attacks in other countries.

To date, the riot had left a total of 197 people dead, most of them innocent residents, he said.

Bekri added that "it won't be long" before the Internet was completely reopened to the public.

He also said that during the riot, the Internet and cell phone messages became the main communication methods for mobsters, and it was necessary for the government to shut down the Internet to restore social order.

Bekri said the negative effects left by the riot would be erased "in the shortest time" and the government had the confidence to ensure the fast development of the region's economy.

"Xinjiang is capable of providing a harmonious and safe environment for tourists. The riot will not affect the opening-up policy of the region and we sincerely welcome businessmen from home and aboard to invest here," he said.

Bekri refuted foreign reports claiming that Uygur women had been forced to go east to work. "Such reports are completely untrue. Before these women were organized to work in other provinces, we must get permission from their parents and especially themselves," he said.


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