Chinese authorities have released a list of 15 "most wanted" suspects in connection with this month's deadly ethnic violence in northwestern Xinjiang province.
The list was released Thursday by police in the provincial capital Urumqi, where the riots occurred. The official Xinhua news agency says authorities have promised to treat the suspects with leniency if they surrender, while those who refuse would face severe punishment.
More than 1,600 people have been detained in connection with the violence.The government says at least 197 people were killed in clashes between Xinjiang's minority Muslim Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese. The clashes were sparked by a false rumor that Uighur workers raped two Chinese girls at a toy factory in Guangdong. Two people were killed after a huge fight at the factory.
Then, earlier this month, the Urumqi riots erupted after security forces stopped a peaceful anti-government protest by Uighurs. The Uighurs subsequently went on a rampage, destroying property and attacking Han Chinese.
Han Chinese took to the streets with makeshift weapons days later, seeking revenge against the Uighurs.
Beijing has accused exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer of orchestrating the violence. The U.S.-based Kadeer has denied the charges. She told reporters in Tokyo Wednesday that nearly 10,000 people disappeared in one night following the riots.
Uighurs are a mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic minority that makes up about half of the population of Xinjiang. They complain of discrimination and say the government limits their religious practices.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.