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China Downplays Muslim Countries' Concerns About Uighurs

The Chinese government is dismissing the prospect that unrest involving Muslim Uighurs in western China could damage its relationship with Islamic countries.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday the violence in Xinjiang province was not based on religion.

Clashes earlier this month between Muslim Uighurs and China's Han ethnic majority left at least 184 people dead. Beijing said most of the casualties were Han. Uighur groups dispute this.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared the situation to genocide. And Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, has said Muslim countries are concerned.

A London-based security company said an al-Qaida affiliate in North Africa has vowed to avenge the perceived injustices in Xinjiang by targeting Chinese workers in Algeria.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman said Beijing would take all necessary measures to protect its institutions and people in Africa.

The spokesman did not specifically refer to the al-Qaida threat in a Tuesday news briefing.

A report by the British security company Stirling Assynt said there is an increased amount of "chatter," or discussion, on the Internet among extremist Islamic militants about China's Uighurs.

The group said al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb has vowed to target the 50,000 Chinese workers in Algeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Three weeks ago, the North African terrorist group killed 24 Algerians who were protecting a Chinese construction project.

In China Tuesday, tensions remained high in Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi. On Monday, police killed two Uighurs, who authorities said were attacking another Uighur. The details of the incident have not been independently confirmed.