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Some Urumqi mosques closed

SOME mosques were shut for security reasons in Urumqi yesterday, but Friday prayers went on at usual in most other parts of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China.

In the region's capital, Urumqi, Muslims who were unable to go to a mosque were told to perform their weekly prayers at home.

All five major mosques near Southern Jiefang Road, center of the Sunday riots that killed at least 156 and injured more than 1,000, were closed yesterday morning.

Outside the Baida Mosque, an imam explained that the mosque had been closed "for safety considerations."

"Mosques in some sensitive areas were closed at their imams' suggestion," said an official in charge of religious affairs with the Xinjiang regional government. "Muslims normally perform rituals at home in time of plague or social unrest."

It was not immediately known how many mosques remained open for Friday prayers in Urumqi, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Major streets in Urumqi appeared peaceful yesterday. Security remained tight with a heavy police presence. More pedestrians and vehicles were seen on the roads compared with the previous four days, but most peddlers still had not returned and most roadside stores also remained closed.

In others places such as Kashgar and Aksu in southern Xinjiang, Muslims performed their normal prayers in mosques. In the Langanda Mosque in Aksu, around 600 Muslims attended.

Ahmed Niyaz, imam of the mosque, said he told believers that the July 5 riot was neither ethnic nor religious but was sabotage by separatists.

The riot violated the doctrines of the Koran and did not represent Muslims, he said.

Emirjan, a taxi driver who attended prayers in the Langanda Mosque, said his business was not affected. Both Han and Uygur passengers remained friendly, he said.

Shops opened and construction work went on as usual in Aksu yesterday, although police and members of the Armed Police were patrolling major intersections.


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