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Latest update : 2009-07-15

China has issued a security alert to its nationals in Algeria after al Qaeda reportedly vowed to avenge the deaths of Muslim Uighurs killed during recent ethnic clashes in the Xinjiang region by targeting Chinese workers in north Africa.

AFP - China issued a security alert Wednesday to its citizens in Algeria after Al-Qaeda reportedly vowed to avenge the deaths of Muslims killed during ethnic unrest in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi.

The warning came as China raised the death toll from violence on July 5 in Urumqi by eight to 192, in what was the worst ethnic violence in the country in decades.

A hefty police presence remained in the capital of the Xinjiang region on Wednesday, allowing more businesses and shops to re-open, but ethnic tensions continued to simmer.

In Algiers, China's embassy called on its citizens to be wary of any threats.

"The Chinese Embassy in Algeria is specially calling on Chinese-funded organisations and personnel to raise their security awareness and strengthen security measures," the embassy said in a statement on its website.

London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt said in a report issued Tuesday that an Al-Qaeda affiliate had vowed to avenge the deaths of Muslim Uighurs killed in Xinjiang by targeting Chinese workers in north Africa.

The call came from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the report said. It was the first time Osama bin Laden's network has directly threatened China or its interests, it noted.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese work in the Middle East and North Africa, including 50,000 in Algeria, the report said.

The state-run China Daily carried a front-page article on Wednesday publicising the embassy statement and reported that China's diplomatic mission in Tunisia was working on contingency plans following the Al-Qaeda warning.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday that Beijing would "take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of overseas Chinese institutions and people."

Before the latest update of the number of people killed from the official Xinhua news agency, Chinese authorities had said unrest in Urumqi on July 5 left 184 people dead.

Most were Han, China's dominant ethnic group, while more than 1,600 were injured after a Uighur protest turned into a "riot", officials said.

Thousands of Han Chinese retaliated in the following days, arming themselves with makeshift weapons and marching through parts of Urumqi vowing vengeance against the Uighurs, according to witnesses and AFP reporters at the scene.

The Uighurs, many of whom have complained of repression under China's 60-year rule in the huge mountainous region, have accused Chinese forces of opening fire on peaceful protests.

They say the number of people killed is far higher than the official tally and that there were also attacks on Uighurs in other parts of Xinjiang.

On Monday, police shot and killed two knife-wielding Uighur "lawbreakers" and wounded another in Urumqi, the government said.

Those deaths did not appear to be in China's official death toll, as Xinhua referred only to the "riot" on July 5.

The two deaths on Monday prompted a flood of riot police into the Uighur district near where the shootings took place, and the security clampdown was still in force Wednesday.

Riot police stood at intersections in the district and kept control of the area's main bazaar.

Steel fences that could be quickly wheeled to block the streets were also placed on the side of roads and traffic was still restricted in some areas.

As a result, some shops opened for the first time since violence broke out 10 days ago.

The Chinese Communist Party's official mouthpiece, the People's Daily, will publish a commentary on Thursday stressing the country's unity is in the "ultimate interests" of people of all ethnic groups, Xinhua said.

"As a country of multiple nationalities, the idea of national unity is the basic foundation for the safety of all ethnic people, and it is also the great power that keeps Chinese civilization going on and on," Xinhua quoted the commentary as saying.

The People's Daily will also say that more evidence was emerging to show the July 5 riot "was a serious criminal incident intentionally organized by hostile forces, indicating a very complicated political background" Xinhua said.

Date created : 2009-07-15