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Beijing stays silent amid more reports of Tibetan deaths
DPA[Thursday, March 20, 2008 20:57]
Beijing, March 20: At least 18 Tibetans were shot dead by paramilitary police in a town in south-western China's Sichuan province, sources said on Thursday, as the government reported rioting in the area but remained silent on allegations that police had opened fire on Tibetan protesters. Thirteen Tibetans, including an 8-year-old child, were shot dead during clashes in Sichuan's Aba town last Friday and five more were killed Saturday, a Tibetan source in Aba who requested anonymity told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Seven trucks carrying paramilitary reinforcements entered Aba on Tuesday, the source said.

The soldiers aggressively interrogated people who ventured out at night and any Tibetans walking on the street in groups of more than two people, he said.

Late Wednesday, the government issued its first reports of violent protests in Aba and other areas of Sichuan and the neighbouring Gansu province, following riots last week in Lhasa, the capital of China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

The official Xinhua news agency said hundreds of rioters attacked government offices, police stations, hospitals and schools in Aba, looting and setting fire to shops along the town's Qiangtang Street on Sunday.

"Many police officers and government officials were injured during the unrest," it said without elaborating.

"The protesters shouted slogans such as 'Tibet independence,' carried rocks and homemade petrol bombs, and waved the flag of the Tibetan government in exile," the agency said.

They "set fire to houses and shops, torched a dozen vehicles, and beat civilians, police and officials" in Aba, it quoted the local government as saying.

Similar violence erupted in at least four areas of Gansu, including Gannan prefecture, where eight policemen and three government employees were injured, the agency said.

But the reports gave no details of any casualties among the protesters, continuing an apparent government policy, led by state television, of highlighting only the violence against the country's Han Chinese majority and other non-Tibetans.

The government denied opening fire on protesters in Lhasa and claimed its forces used "extreme restraint," but it has issued no such statements on the violence in Sichuan, Gansu and other areas.

An official in the Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, a large district which administers Aba county, on Wednesday said he was unaware of any deaths during the protests.
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