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Report: New Protest by Tibetans Where Monk Set Himself on Fire

A Washington-based advocacy group says several hundred Tibetan monks demonstrated Monday in the same town where a monk set himself on fire in an act of protest on Friday.

The International Campaign for Tibet said the Buddhist monks marched after Chinese authorities barred them from observing a traditional prayer festival in the town of Ngaba (Chinese: Aba), in China's Sichuan province.

Monks from Sey monastery reportedly demanded that authorities allow them to hold prayer ceremonies, and also release prisoners detained on Friday from a nearby monastery.

China's official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a monk from Kirti monastery lit himself on fire Friday.

Activist groups say paramilitary police shot the monk several times.

Witnesses said the monk marched toward the town center after officials prevented monks at his monastery from observing the Great Prayer (Monlam Chenmo) festival. They said he carried a banned Tibetan flag and a picture of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual and political leader.

Xinhua quoted a local Communist party officials as saying the monk, in his late 20s, suffered burns to his neck and head.

Kirti monastery was at the center of pro-independence demonstrations last year which began in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, before spreading across the plateau.

Tibetan exile sources said police shot killed at least 23 Tibetans - including Buddhist monks and a 16-year-old school girl - when they fired on demonstrators. Chinese authorities said security personnel fired in self-defense, but did not confirm any fatalities.

Chinese authorities have heightened security in Tibetan communities and closed them to foreign tourists in the run up to a sensitive anniversary. March 10 will mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of a Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule and the flight of the Dalai Lama and his government to India.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.