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Deaths in China Xinjiang riot raised to 35: Xinhua

28 june 2013, 18:25
The death toll in one of the worst riots in China's restive Xinjiang area has been raised to 35 from 27, amid reports of tightened security ahead of a sensitive anniversary, AFP reports citing state media.

The western desert region -- home to about 10 million members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority -- last saw such bloody clashes on July 5, 2009, in riots that left hundreds dead.

Some in the Uighur community have blamed the unrest on economic inequality and religious repression, but China rejects these claims, pointing to investment in the resource-rich region and often pinning clashes on "terrorists".

The Xinhua state news agency described the latest riot as a "terrorist" incident in which mobs attacked police stations and other sites before officers opened fire, leaving 35 dead including 11 rioters.

A further 21 police and civilians were injured and four rioters detained in the incident which occurred in Turpan city's Lukqun township, the report said.

The US-based Radio Free Asia reported late on Thursday a higher death toll of 46, also including 11 rioters, citing officials and residents.

The World Uyghur Congress, a group run by Uighurs in exile, said in statement that the incident was "evidence of China's failed policies towards Uighurs".

It added that "an information blackout and security crackdown" in the area raised questions about state media's version of events.

The ramped-up security in Lukqun apparently impacted road traffic and communications.

A resident of Turpan told AFPP Friday that his phone calls and text messages to friends in Lukqun could not get through.

Police at a checkpoint 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Lukqun barred AFP journalists from entering on Thursday, citing safety concerns and ongoing investigations.

The state-run Global Times said all vehicles entering and leaving the town were "subject to searches in an attempt to track down those still at large".

It said Xinjiang authorities were preparing for potential disturbances ahead of next week's anniversary of the 2009 rioting, which occurred in the regional capital, Urumqi.

Xinhua reported on Friday that the situation where Wednesday's attack had occurred was "generally stable".

Turpan police and Xinjiang information officials contacted by AFP, declined to comment, referring queries instead to reports by Xinhua.

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