319 arrested for Xinjiang probe

BEIJING: Police in the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang have arrested hundreds of people in connection with disturbances that left at least 197 people dead, state media reported Sunday.

Citing a police announcement in Urumqi, the regional capital that was the epicentre of the unrest on July 5, the Xinhua news agency said 319 people had been detained.

Police have previously confirmed the detentions of over 1,600 people, according to earlier state media reports.

Urumqi Public Security Bureau said the detentions came "after information was received from the public or obtained through the police investigation," Xinhua said.

The arrests were made "in Urumqi or in other parts of Xinjiang," the statement said, adding "suspects would face charges in connection with the riot that left 197 people dead," according to Xinhua.

On Thursday, Urumqi police issued photographs of 15 suspects still at large and promised leniency for those who turned themselves in. Those who did not would be "punished severely", the police said.

Uighurs say the unrest was touched off when Urumqi security forces responded violently to peaceful protests over a brawl at a factory in southern China. State media said the factory clash left two Uighurs dead.

The government says Uighurs, most of whom are Muslim, went on a rampage in Urumqi against members of China's dominant Han ethnic group.