by Xinhua writers Zhou Yan and Li Laifang
URUMQI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- The death toll has risen to 140 following Sunday night's riot in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the regional government said Monday.
Fifty-seven dead bodies were retrieved from Urumqi's streets and lanes, while all the others were confirmed dead at hospitals, said Liu Yaohua, the region's police chief, at a press conference midday Monday.
He said the death toll would still be climbing.
Firemen put out a fire in Dawannanlu Street in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009. (Xinhua/Shen Qiao)
At least 828 people were injured in the deadly violence that erupted Sunday night.
Rioters burned 261 motor vehicles, including 190 buses, at least 10 taxis and two police cars, said Liu.
Several vehicles were still seen ablaze on Urumqi's streets Monday morning, he said.
A preliminary investigation showed 203 shops and 14 homes were destroyed in the riot.
Police have arrested several hundreds in connection with the riot, including at least a dozen who were suspected of fanning the unrest, Liu said.
He said police are still searching for about 90 other key suspects in the city. "Police have tightened security in downtown Urumqi streets and at key institutions such as power and natural gas companies and TV stations to prevent large scale riots."
Checkpoints have been set up in Urumqi's key areas as well the neighboring Changji and Turpan prefectures to prevent the rioters from fleeing, Liu said.
He said more than 100 ethnic officials from adjacent areas have been transferred to Urumqi for interrogating the suspects.
Photo taken on July 5, 2009 shows a shop being burned in a street of Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.(Xinhua/Sadat)
A NIGHTMARISH NIGHT
According to police report, in the early hours on Sunday, the police department of Urumqi was tipped that information was spreading on Internet forums, calling for demonstrations at the People's Square and South Gate at 7 p.m. Sunday.
At 6:20 p.m., more than 100 people gathered at there. Violence began around 8 p.m., when some rioters started beating pedestrians and smash buses on Heping Road.
The violence soon spread to many other downtown areas.
Kadi Liya, a 23-year-old female Uygur, said she was returning home on No. 106 bus when her bus was smashed at around 7:30 p.m. at Shanxi Alley, with window glasses battered. She was beaten in the head by someone with a wood baton. She suffered slight cerebral concussion and is being treated in the regional People's Hospital.
Police said buildings in the residential compounds of the traffic police department and the taxation bureau in Tianshan District were severely scorched. "Some residents had to hide themselves in forests nearby and dared not to return home," a policeman said.
"It was like a war zone here, with many bodies of ethnic Han people lying on the road," said Huang Yabo, deputy director of the Urumqi Public Security Bureau.
Two workers of a scorched massage house on Yan'an Road were beaten to death. Fourteen people along the road said they were homeless.
A witness said an injured person was lying under the Tuanjie Road viaduct, bleeding, late Sunday night. On another street, a woman lay dead, with a bag on her back.
On Xinhua South Road, a sedan and a truck were overthrown. Their windows were smashed and doors deformed.
Rioters also set fire to a large hotel near the office building of the regional foreign trade department.
An injured man is carried to an urgent care center in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 5, 2009.(Xinhua/Shen Qiao)
ORDER PARTIALLY RESTORED
Traffic blockades were partially lifted Monday morning in parts of Urumqi, but tension still exists in the city.
With the exception of Yan'an Road, Tuanjie Road, a road near Xinjiang University, and Ningxiawan in the suburbs of Urumqi, blockades in downtown Urumqi have been removed.
Debris has been cleared from the roads and normal traffic has resumed. Workers are still pulling away damaged vehicles from the worst-affected roads in the city.
But most shops in areas where the violence occurred remained closed.
At a market on Guangming Road, only ten vegetables and fruit stalls opened Monday, compared with dozens on normal days. The market was usually crowded.
Li Guifang, a resident near the market, said they had heard the violence last night and few residents came to the market in the morning.
Armed police are patrolling streets that are still blockaded.
MASTERMIND BEHIND VIOLENCE
Initial investigations showed the violence was masterminded by the separatist World Uyghur Congress led by Rebiya Kadeer, according to the regional government.
Rebiya Kadeer, a former businesswoman in China, was detained in1999 on charges of harming national security. She was released on bail on March 17, 2005 to seek medical treatment in the United States.
"The violence is a preempted, organized violent crime. It is instigated and directed from abroad, and carried out by outlaws in the country," a government statement said early Monday.
According to the government, the World Uyghur Congress has recently been instigating an unrest via the Internet, calling on supporters "to be braver" and "to do something big."
Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang regional government, said in a televised speech Monday morning that three forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism made use of a fight between Uygur and Han ethnic workers in a toy factory in Guangdong Province on June 26, in which two Uygur workers died, to create chaos.
The fight was triggered by the sexual assault of a female Han worker by a Uygur coworker, he said.
"We should bear in mind that stability is to the greatest interest of all people in China, including the 21 million-plus people from all ethnic groups in Xinjiang," he said.
Xinjiang, the far western autonomous region, is home to more than 10.96 million of ethnic minority people, including Uygur, Mongolian and Hui.
(Xinhua reporters Li Xiaoling, Cao zhiheng, Wang Dalin, Huang Yan, He Zhanjun and Liu Bing in Urumqi contributed to this report)
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