Mosques re-open in Urumqi amid tight security

Last Updated: Friday, July 17, 2009 - 18:24

Urumqi: All mosques in riot-hit Urumqi were opened for Friday prayers on Friday for the first time after the deadliest ethnic riots in the city, as Chinese paramilitary forces stood guard to avert any fresh unrest between Han Chinese and the Uygur Muslims.
"All the 433 mosques in Xinjiang` regional capital, some
of which were closed last week after the July 5 riot, were
opened to prayers Friday," state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Chinese authorities had last Friday ordered mosques to
remain closed apparently to prevent large gatherings in the
city fresh from the ethnic unrest that had claimed 192 lives.

A large number of security personnel were deployed in
the city today, especially across Uygur areas, where shops
were asked to pull down shutters before the prayers began.

Police officers and riot police armed with rifles told
shopkeepers to move their goods inside and close down.

"More security staff are sent here. Members of the
congregation must open their bags for check before entering
the mosque," a man named Ai was quoted as saying outside the
Yanghang Mosque.

Close to 100 paramilitary policemen with wooden clubs
took up positions opposite the popular White Mosque in the
city as people offered prayers under their watchful eyes.

Several mosques opened last week after hundreds of
people gathered despite local authorities ordering them to
remain closed.

Nearly two weeks after witnessing one of the worst
communal riots in Chinese history, the city is limping back to
normalcy with businesses resuming, but Internet access remains
blocked in the restive region.

The unrest was sparked by a protest by Muslim Uygurs
that spiralled into clashes with police and the Han Chinese
and claimed 192 lives while injuring as many as 1,680 people.

The riots prompted the police to launch a massive
crackdown in which around 1400 people, including over 300
women were detained.

The regional government said yesterday it had completed
initial investigation into the riots and was ready to issue
arrest warrants.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, July 17, 2009 - 18:24

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