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Lhasa calm after riot, traffic control imposed
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After a day of rioting that killed 10 people on Friday, Lhasa reported no new incidents of violence on Saturday in the Tibetan regional capital.

Friday's riot involved beatings, vandalism, looting of shops and arson orchestrated by the Dalai clique, disturbing 18 years of tranquility in the city.

Traffic control was imposed on major streets, leaving few cars on the road on Saturday. Photos showed cars overturned, burnt motorcycles and bicycles scattered on the main streets. The air was tinged with smoke, according to local witnesses.

Most shops in the city were closed on Saturday. In downtown areas, about a 100 shops were ransacked and vandalized. Smoke belched from shops destroyed in the riot.

Power supply resumed in quarters along Duosenge Road, the area worst hit by the violence in the downtown. The local phone service, however, could not be resumed for the moment as the communications infrastructure was destroyed in the violence.

According to the witnesses, the unrest started around 1:10 p.m. on Friday when some people brandishing batons and knives took to the main streets, clashing with and stoning local police around the Ramogia Monastery in downtown Lhasa.

Rioters later began gathering around 2 p.m. near the Ramogia monastery, and set fire to shops along two main streets, and around Jokhang temple and Chomsigkang market. They torched buildings for civilian use at 160 places, including banks, a press establishment, shops, schools and hospitals. This caused blackouts and interruption of communications in some areas. Shops close to the Jokhang temple and Ramogia monastery were shut down.

Among the dead were two hotel employees and two shop owners. A mob reportedly used double-barrel rifles to kill two business people.

"The victims are all innocent civilians, and most were burnt to death," said a regional government official.

No casualties have been reported among foreigners, an official with the foreign affairs office of the regional government said.

"We have not received any report that foreigners suffered injuries or death in the beating, smashing, looting and burning on Friday," the official said.

A Tibetan government official told Xinhua there had been enough evidence to prove the sabotage was "organized, premeditated and masterminded" by the Dalai clique.

The violence, involving beating, smashing, looting and burning, had disrupted public order and jeopardized people's lives and property, the official said.

Xinhua reporters in Lhasa saw many rioters carrying backpacks filled with stones and bottles of inflammable liquids, some holding iron bars, wooden sticks and long knifes, signs the crowd had come fully prepared and meant harm.

The mobs assaulted passersby, sparing no women or children, witnesses said. 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.

After the violence broke out, the Tibet Autonomous Regional Party and government authorities set up a command headquarters that quickly mobilized security personnel to maintain order and disperse the crowds. Fire fighters were also called in to put out fires at different places and to help rescue innocent, stranded people. The injured were hospitalized.

Armed police in Lhasa rescued more than 580 people, including three Japanese tourists, as well as students and teaching faculty of a primary school and a middle school, Tibet Autonomous Region government sources said on Saturday.

The injuries and economic losses caused by Friday's violence are still under investigation.

The Lhasa government published a letter late on Friday asking urban dwellers to show support for the government in its efforts to clamp down on perpetrators according to law.

"Cadres, workers and residents in Lhasa shall have a good understanding of the current situation. Be firm with the efforts to fight against all forms of secessionist activities," said the letter.

"Stay away from lawbreaking acts meant to cause social disturbances and harm the interests of the broad masses of the people, and consciously safeguard social stability and your own legitimate rights, support the government's crackdown on all forms of criminal activities, so that together we can maintain harmony and stability in Tibet."

Meanwhile, law enforcement authorities in Tibet Autonomous Region issued a notice on Saturday urging lawbreakers in the riot to stop their criminal activities. They were offering leniency to those who voluntarily surrendered.

The notice, which was jointly issued by the Tibetan Higher People's Court, the regional people's procuratorate and the regional public security bureau, demanded the lawbreakers to give themselves up by Monday midnight.

(Xinhua News Agency March 16, 2008)

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