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Lhasa riots leave 10 dead, China vows stern action against protestors
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March 15, 2008 10:07 IST
Last Updated: March 15, 2008 15:43 IST

Ten persons, mostly 'business people', were killed in riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, where Buddhist monks protesting against the Chinese rule clashed with troops, the state-run media in Beijing [Images] said on Saturday.

No foreigner was among the dead, the official Xinhua news agency reported, adding, 'most of the victims were business people'.

Violence erupted in Lhasa on Friday when protesters, led by Buddhist monks, clashed with Chinese troops and burnt vehicles and shops in the biggest and angriest demonstrations in two decades against the Chinese rule.

Security forces used gunfire to quell the protests in the remote mountainous region as Tibetan activists yelled for independence after days of peaceful marches with anti-riot police patrolling the streets.

Vowing to 'deal sternly' with those engaged in 'activities of splitting the nation', Chinese authorities claimed the situation in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa was calm a day after the clashes.

'The outbreak of violence died down', Xinhua news agency reported.

"We fired no gunshots," Tibet Autonomous Regional Government Chairman Qiangba Puncog told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National Peoples Congress, Chinas parliament.

Describing the unrest a 'sabotage activity' organised and premeditated by the Dalai clique, he said, "We will deal sternly with those who engage themselves in activities of splitting the nation in accordance with the law".

Puncog also said Lhasa was not under the martial law.

Giving more details of Friday's violence, Xinhua said a number of shops, banks and hotels were burnt, causing blackouts and interruption of communications in some areas. A mosque was also set on fire, it said.

'People were also seen burnt by the attackers,' Xinhua said quoting its reporters in Lhasa.

Many rioters carried backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids, iron bars, wooden sticks and long knives, it said. The mobs assaulted passers-by, sparing no women or children, the report said quoting witnesses.

'They hit at things along their path, smashing windows, automatic teller machines and traffic lights. Several clothing shops, restaurants, and mobile phone stores were looted. Bikes, motorcycles and cars were burnt down', the report said.

The local Sifang Supermarket, Landun Shopping Mall and Wenzhou Mall were also set on fire in the afternoon, it said.

Citing government sources, Xinhua said policemen were ordered not to use force but they were compelled to use 'a limited amount' of tear gas and fired warning shots to disperse the violent mobs.

The ongoing monks-led protests launched to mark the 49th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese rule saw an outburst of violence on the sixth day on Friday. An unspecified number of monks were earlier arrested during the demonstrations in the heavily fortified Lhasa.

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