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Xinjiang Muslims attend Friday prayer amid tightened security (07/10/09)

URUMQI, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Mosques opened Friday for prayers in most places in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, except for the capital Urumqi where some were shut for security reasons.

The Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar City, China's largest mosque, received about 3,000 prayers Friday afternoon, with Armed Police and about 20 police vehicles guarding the square.

The main gate of the mosque was closed, while two side doors were open for the congregational prayers who entered at about 2:50p.m. after going through security checks.

Some others prayed in the sun outside the mosque. The service ended at about 3:50 p.m. Customers swarmed into shops after the ritual. Foreign visitors were seen in the streets.

Some mosques in Urumqi were closed Friday and Muslims were told to perform their weekly congregational prayer at home following Sunday's deadly riot.

All five major mosques near the Southern Jiefang Road, center of the Sunday violence, were closed Friday morning.

Outside the Baida Mosque, at No. 441 Southern Jiefang Road, an imam explained that the place had been closed "for safety considerations" and advised people to perform prayers at home instead.

"Mosques in some sensitive areas were closed at their imams' suggestion," said an official in charge of religious affairs with the Xinjiang regional government. "Muslims normally perform rituals at home in time of plague or social unrest."

It was not immediately known how many mosques remained open for the Friday prayer in Urumqi, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Major streets in Urumqi seemed peaceful Friday. Security remained tight with a heavy police presence. More pedestrians and vehicles were seen on the roads compared with the previous four days but peddlers still had not come back. Most roadside stores also remained closed.

In others places such as Aksu in southern Xinjiang, Muslims had their normal prayers in mosques.

In the Langanda mosque in Aksu, around 600 Muslims, mostly males, attended the prayer as usual.

Ahmed Niyaz, imam of the mosque, said he told believers that the July 5 riot was neither ethnic nor religious in nature, but the sabotage of separatists.

The riot violated the doctrines of the Koran and did not represent Muslims, he said.

Emirjan, a taxi driver who attended the prayer in the Langanda mosque, said his business was not affected. Both Han and Uygur passengers were quite friendly, he said.

Shops opened and construction work went on as usual in Aksu on Friday, although police and members of the Armed Police were patrolling major intersections.

About 800 officials were sent to the mosques to ensure the smooth going of the service in Yining City. More than 44,000 people prayed at 196 mosques across the city. Officials said the number was close to those in previous years. 



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