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Chinese Police Enforce Order after Riots

Security forces kept a firm grip on the tense Xinjiang capital Thursday after days of ethnic violence that left 156 dead, as residents tentatively emerged to go about daily life.

Crowds of Han Chinese, China's dominant ethnic group, cheered as trucks full of police and covered in banners reading, "We must defeat the terrorists" and "Oppose ethnic separatism and hatred," rumbled by. But minority Uighurs in Urumqi became far more fearful about talking to reporters.

China's state media said Thursday that top leaders of the ruling Communist Party had met to discuss the deadly Xinjiang riots and vowed to uphold stability in the region.

The official Xinhua News Agency announced Thursday the meeting of the nine-man Politburo. Xinhua said the Politburo called the riots a "severe violent criminal event" and said overseas forces were behind them.

The meeting was held Wednesday shortly after President Hu Jintao, also head of the Communist Party, returned after cutting short a trip to Italy to participate in a Group of Eight summit.

The government followed the region's worst ethnic violence in decades with a dose of fresh propaganda, putting red stickers up outside apartment compounds saying, "Don't listen to any rumors" and "Keep calm and maintain public order."

A heavy security presence remained, and military helicopters flew over the city of 2.3 million. Police in various neighborhoods unloaded truckloads of vegetables, where they were sold on sidewalks so people kept from local markets by the chaos would have something to buy.

With the city apparently under control, the next major test will come Friday, when large numbers of the largely Muslim Uighurs gather for their weekly prayers.

Officials have said 156 people were killed and more than 1,100 people hurt as the Turkic-speaking Uighurs ran amok in the city on Sunday, angry over the deaths last month of Uighur factory workers during a brawl in southern China.

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) say security forces gunned down many of Sunday's protesters. Officials have yet to give an ethnic breakdown of those killed.

In response to the riot, hundreds of Han Chinese rampaged through the city Tuesday with sticks and meat cleavers, looking for Uighurs and revenge.

The People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's main newspaper, ran an editorial Thursday saying the violence was "in extreme violation of China's laws."

Top leaders in Urumqi have said the rioters will be dealt with severely, and the official Xinhua News Agency said the prosecutors in Xinjiang had picked their "best workers" to investigate the riots.

State television Thursday showed repeated footage of China's top police officer, Public Security Minister Meng Jiangzhu, touring areas of Urumqi (pronounced uh-ROOM-chee).

Fear was almost palpable in Saimachang, a Uighur neighborhood where two days ago a large group of sobbing women scuffled with police and accused them of rounding up their husbands and sons as suspects in the rioting.

On Thursday the Uighurs were far more cautious.

"We can't tell the truth, my friend," said one elderly man who would not give his name.

One woman led an Associated Press reporter to her home in a back alley. Four women quickly gathered and began complaining about their missing husbands and sons.

"The men they arrested still have not returned," said one woman, who said her name was Guli. "It has been three days and we haven't been able to talk with them. We have no news."

After an hour, a Uighur official approached reporters and politely asked everyone to leave.

Government officials and state media continued to accuse U.S.-exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer and her overseas followers of being behind the violence. She has denied the allegations and accused China of inciting the violence.