- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 18, 2009

URUMQI, China | More than 100 Chinese riot police with shields and wooden sticks lined up directly across the street from a popular mosque during Friday prayers, warning worshippers not to protest again in this western city rocked by the region’s worst rioting in decades.

About 1,000 faithful prayed without incident at the White Mosque in Urumqi, capital of China’s oil-rich Xinjiang region. As the prayers began, a police truck with a loudspeaker cruised past the mosque, blasting government slogans that drowned out the imam’s voice for those worshipping outside the crowded building topped by a green dome and flanked by blue-trimmed minarets.

Urumqi has been tense since rioting erupted July 5 after police stopped a protest by Muslim minority Uighur residents. The Uighurs went on a rampage, smashing windows, burning cars and beating Han Chinese - the nation’s dominant ethnic group. Two days later, the Han took to the streets and attacked Uighurs.

The government has said the rioting killed 192 people and injured 1,721. State media has reported more than 1,400 people have been detained.

Posters on concrete apartment building walls tell residents that most of the suspects in the violence have been arrested but a few are still on the run. The notices urge people to turn in suspects who are still at large in exchange for “big rewards.”

During the first week after the rioting, thousands of security forces who flooded into the capital seemed off balance and overwhelmed as they tried to restore order in the city of 2.3 million. The Uighurs and Han Chinese also remained agitated and there was sporadic fighting and protests.

But nearly two weeks after the unrest began, security forces had a tight grip on Urumqi, and many Uighurs appeared reluctant to protest or criticize the government for fear of arrest.

All 433 mosques in Xinjiang’s regional capital, some of which had been closed last week, were open to the public Friday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a religious affairs official.

After Friday prayers last week, about 40 Uighurs gathered outside the White Mosque and began protesting. They marched down the street a few blocks before riot police stopped the demonstration and hauled them away.

On Friday, the security forces were prepared for unrest, positioning more than 100 police officers across from the mosque. Clusters of officers with rifles were stationed nearby, and officers ordered all the shops around the mosque to close.

Few people were leaving their homes in Uighur neighborhoods, where small crowds gathered in the streets last week to vent their anger with the government and Han Chinese majority.

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