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A senior official has warned that China will execute anyone found to be behind the riots that have rocked the north-western city of Urumqi.
Sky News quoted Li Zhi, the Communist party boss of Urumqi, as saying that the government would seek the death penalty over bloody protests in the capital of Xinjiang.
He told reporters that the situation in Urumqi was stable after several days of ethnic violence and that security forces had taken over the control of the streets.
Zhi said many people accused of murder had already been detained and that most of them were students.
The violence has already caused President Hu Jintao to cut short a visit to Italy to attend the G8 summit.
About 20 million, representing 47 ethnic groups, live in China's vast Xinjiang region. The largest group is the 8.3 million ethnic Uighurs - an Islamic central Asian people.
But the number of Han Chinese in the region has risen from six per cent in 1949 to more than 40 per cent now.
Critics say it is part of a policy of Han Chinese migration to dilute any nationalist tendencies.
More than 1,000 people have been wounded in the region and 1,434 arrested during the unrest.
The pledge, reported by the state media, was the first public comment by top leaders on the violence that has left 156 people dead in the city of Urumqi.
The government has deployed thousands of troops to bring the situation under control.
President Hu Jintao was forced to leave the G8 summit in Italy on Wednesday to attend to the crisis.