Image: Security forces and Uighur passersby.
Diego Azubel  /  EPA
Security forces stand guard in a predominantly ethnic Uighur area in Urumqi as a Uighur family passes by, in Xinjiang province, China, on Thursday.
By Associated Press Writer
updated 7/16/2009 7:27:51 AM ET 2009-07-16T11:27:51

The initial investigation into ethnic riots that left 192 people dead in China's western Xinjiang region has been completed and arrest warrants will soon be issued, the region's chief prosecutor said Thursday.

The unrest — the worst ethnic violence China has seen in decades — began July 5 in Urumqi with a protest by Muslim Uighurs that spiraled into violence against Han Chinese, in which people were beaten and cars and buildings burned. In subsequent days, roaming groups of Han Chinese launched revenge attacks.

"The arrest warrants will be issued soon," Hamsi Mamuti, the top prosecutor for Xinjiang, was quoted as saying by the official China News Service. "The violent elements will be severely punished according to the law. The entire process will be strictly based on the law."

He said the first group of suspects had been identified, but did not give any numbers. Li Zhi, the highest-ranking Communist Party official in Urumqi, has already said some of the rioters who didn't understand what they were doing would be treated leniently, but those found guilty of the most serious crimes could be executed.

Last week, state media reported more than 1,400 people were detained in connection with the riots.

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the Communist Party in Xinjiang, of which Urumqi (pronounced uh-ROOM-chee) is the capital, raised the death toll to 192 from 184 reported earlier, and said 1,721 people were wounded in the violence, with 881 people still in hospitals, 66 of them in critical condition. A total of 331 shops and 627 vehicles were burned in the unrest.

Uighurs dispute death figures
Chinese authorities have said most of those killed were Han Chinese, though Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) say they believe many more of their community were killed in the ensuing government crackdown.

Urumqi was calm Thursday, although security was tight, with a high number of security forces on the streets, especially near Uighur areas.

Uighurs, who number 9 million in Xinjiang, have complained about an influx of Han Chinese and government restrictions on their Muslim religion. They accuse the Han of discrimination and the Communist Party of trying to erase their language and culture.

Han Chinese, many of whom were encouraged to emigrate to Xinjiang by the government, believe Uighurs should be grateful for the region's rapid economic development, which has brought schools, airports and oil wells to the sprawling, rugged region the size of Texas.

More on: Uighurs | China

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Clashes erupt in China’s far west

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  1. A Uighur ethnic minority girl walks close to Chinese security forces in the streets of Urumqi, China, Thursday, July 16, 2009. Security in Urumqi remained tight as some roads leading to the Grand Bazaar market remained closed, while clusters of security officers stood guard in corners and platoons of paramilitary police patrolled the streets (Elizabeth Dalziel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A Uighur woman and a child walk past a charred car at a destroyed car dealer in Uighur section of Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, on Wednesday, July 15. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A man walks across a destroyed car dealer at Uighur section in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, on July 15. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Workers on Monday, July 13, prepare to cover up the facade of a car dealership in Urumqi, China, that was destroyed in rioting last week. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Chinese paramilitary police march at a post on the People's Square in Urumqi on Sunday. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Uighur protesters march through the street in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, on Friday, July 10. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Ethnic Uighurs stand outside a closed mosque minutes before prayer in Urumqi on Friday. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Uighurs pray in a mosque in Urumqi, in western China's Xinjiang province, on Friday. Despite announcements that Friday prayers were canceled due to the recent ethnic violence, boisterous crowds showed up at mosques and forced officials to let them in. (Kyodo News via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A Uyghur girl is stopped by a line of riot police officers as she watches the parade of paramilitary police officers in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province, Thursday, July 9. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Chinese paramilitary police stand guard outside the Grand Bazaar, which remains closed in the ethnic Uigur area of Urumqi, in China's farwest Xinjiang region on July 9, 2009. (Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. An ethnic Uighur watches as an army truck full of Chinese soldiers patrols the street in Urumqi in China's far west Xinjiang province on Wednesday, July 8. China poured troops into the restive city in a massive show of force, but fresh unrest flared as ethnic Han Chinese and Muslim Uighurs armed themselves with makeshift weapons. (Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Zhang Xiangying, a Han Chinese patient who was injured during ethnic clashes, recuperates at People's Hospital in Urumqi on July 8. The violence in the regional capital has erupted after years of simmering ethnic tensions and Uighur claims of repressive Chinese rule. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Ethnic Uighurs wait with sticks behind a road block in their neighborhood in Urumqi on July 8. Although Uighurs make up a plurality in Xinjiang province, local resentment has built up in part due to the rapid, large-scale immigration of Han Chinese into the region. (Nir Elias / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Chinese security forces, center left, get into formation on the People's Square in Urumqi on July 8. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Chinese forces gather at a square in Urumqi on July 8. (Eugene Hoshiko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A Uighur woman protests in front of policemen on Tuesday, July 7, in Urumqi. (Guang Niu / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Uighur women grieve for male relatives who they say were detained by Chinese authorities after Sunday's protest in Urumqi. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A woman belonging to the Uighur Muslim minority protests in front of rows of riot police during a demonstration in Urumqi on July 7. (Diego Azubel / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Armed Chinese police officers march toward a group of protesting local women during a confrontation along a street in Urumqi on July 7. (David Gray / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A woman holds onto a policeman as a crowd of locals confront security forces along a street in Urumqi on July 7. The Uighur women were protesting the arrests of husbands and sons in the city. (David Gray / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Chinese government soldiers get ready to charge during a protest in Urumqi on July 7. (Oliver Weiken / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A Uighur women faints during a protest in Urumqi on July 7. (Oliver Weiken / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. An ethnic Han Chinese vigilante group patrols the streets of Urumqi on Monday night, July 6, after Sunday night's riot. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Vehicles set on fire and destroyed in Sunday night's riot sit on Beiwan Street in Urumqi on July 6. (Shen Qiao / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. This image made from video shows a street in Urumqi after the deadliest ethnic violence in decades on July 5. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

    Medical staff attend to the wounded following riots in Urumqi in a handout photo that officials say was taken in the late evening of July 5 and released July 6. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. In this image made from television, people try to overturn a bus in Urumqi on July 5. (APTN) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A man passes the wreck of a car on a street in Urumqi on July 6. (Peter Parks / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Residents pass by a burned shop front following clashes in Urumqi on July 6. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Two bloodstained women are seen on a street in Urumqi in this frame grab taken from a broadcast by China Central Television on July 5. (CCTV via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. In this video photo taken from CCTV via APTN, protesters turn over a police car in Urumqi on July 5. (CCTV via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Protesters gather in Urumqi on July 5. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A video grab from Xinjiang TV shows a crying woman carrying her baby next to a soldier in Urumqi on July 6. (Xinjiang TV via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Firefighters put out a fire on a bus in Dawannanlu Street in Urumqi on July 5. (Shen Qiao / Xinhua via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

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  4. Editor's note:
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  1. Image:
    Elizabeth Dalziel / AP
    Above: Slideshow (34) Clashes erupt in China’s far west - Clashes erupt in China’s far west
  2. CHN: China's Far West
    Carlos Spottorno / Reportage by Getty Images
    Slideshow (13) Clashes erupt in China’s far west - Inside XinJiang

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