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More Deaths Reported in Fresh Tibetan Violence

A Norwegian-funded Tibetan exile group says five people have been killed in a second straight day of confrontations between Tibetans and security forces in China's southwestern Sichuan province.

Voice of Tibet radio says Tuesday's deaths occurred at a marketplace in Serta county, about 40 kilometers from the scene of a similar deadly confrontation Monday in Luhuo.

An exiled Tibetan who spoke Tuesday to VOA's Tibetan service says witnesses have confirmed two of Tuesday's five victims are dead. The conditions of the remaining three, also hit by police gunfire, were not immediately known.

Earlier Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said widespread witness reports of more than 30 shooting victims among several thousand Tibetan protesters on Monday in Luhuo were, in his word, "hyped" (exaggerated). Spokesman Hong Lei acknowledged that one person was killed in that confrontation, but said the protest itself was carried out by "dozens" as opposed to thousands of demonstrators.

Hong said four protesters and five police were injured Monday, after locals began destroying stores and attacking police with rocks and knives. He also said the demonstrations were spawned by "overseas secessionists."

Despite the Chinese comments, monks in the area's flashpoint Buddhist monasteries told Western news agencies they were treating more than 30 of Monday's Tibetan demonstrators for injuries, and said two of them were critically wounded by police gunfire.

Monks also said they were too afraid to take the wounded and injured to an outside hospital, because of a large police presence in the area.

At least 16 Tibetans, including monks, former monks and nuns, have died in Sichuan province in self-immolation protests since March 2011. Thousands of monks were subsequently arrested by security forces and taken to unknown locations.

The Tibetans demonstrating Monday and Tuesday were said to be protesting the earlier arrests of some activists distributing pamphlets calling for Tibetan freedom from Chinese rule. The pamphlets also warned that more Tibetans were ready to set themselves on fire to protest the Chinese crackdown.

The rights group Free Tibet said Monday that many Tibetans in the region boycotted Chinese New Year's celebrations currently under way in much of East Asia, to protest Chinese policy toward Tibet.