Mosques reopen in China's Xinjiang under heavy security

Fri Jul 17, 2009 5:15am EDT

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(For full coverage, see [ID:nXINJIANG])

By David Gray

URUMQI, July 17 (Reuters) - Mosques reopened for Friday prayers under the watchful eyes of security troops in Urumqi, a riot-torn city on China's far western frontier where 192 people were killed in ethnic attacks earlier this month.

Many of the mosques had been closed for Friday prayers last week after Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5, although in a few cases they briefly opened when crowds formed at their doors.

All of the 433 mosques were open this week, China's official Xinhua news agency said.

Although businesses in Urumqi were returning to normal, Internet access in the restive region is still cut. Telephone reception is intermittent.

Xinjiang is home to the Muslim Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people with cultural ties to central Asia, who now make up just under half of the region's 20 million people.

Many resent decades of migration by Han Chinese, who they say benefit from economic growth, and also resent religious and cultural discrimination.

The streets around the White mosque, where a brief protest broke out after prayers last week, were closed to traffic, but pedestrians were allowed in, some after showing their identification.

At the Yang Hang mosque, the prayer session was shortened to about 20 minutes, compared to the normal duration of over an hour, but worshippers filed in and out smoothly.

The Urumqi attacks on Han Chinese shops and pedestrians broke out after police stopped a demonstration protesting the deaths of two Uighur workers attacked by their Han Chinese coworkers in a faraway factory near the Hong Kong border.

Han Chinese took to the streets in revenge two days later. (Editing by David Fox)





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