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THE INDEX — July 6, 2009

Over 140 people have died in clashes between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Chinese government has blamed Uighur exile groups of “preempting, organizing, and inciting” riots that have left over 800 individuals injured. Uighur exile groups have “adamantly rejected” claims of plotting the riots and demonstrations, stating rather that the activity was a spontaneous "outpouring of pent-up anger” towards Beijing. While Sunday’s protests initially seemed to stem from peaceful demonstrations over the deaths of two Uighur workers at a toy factory, many see the recent turmoil a result of Uighur frustrations over “growing Han dominance” in the region. Uighurs are a Muslim ethnic minority based in Xinjiang, an oil-rich province which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Chinese government has accused them of forming a separatist movement and supporting Islamic terrorism across Asia.

Read more about Uighurs and western China in Audrey Ronning Topping's article, China's Heritage on the Old Silk Road, in the winter 08-09 issue of World Policy Journal.

The Nigerian government announced Friday that it would join Algeria and Niger in constructing a Trans-Saharan gas pipeline able to supply European markets with a steady stream of Nigerian oil. The announcement, however, was marred by a spike in militant attacks over the weekend on Chevron and Shell facilities in Nigeria's densely populated Niger Delta region. On Saturday, a spokesman for the main rebel group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), threatened attacks on the new pipeline if multinationals do not halt development. "[MEND] warns the investors to the Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline project that unless the Niger Delta root issues have been addressed and resolved, any money put into the project will go down the drain." In an attempt to alleviate tensions, Nigeria's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, offered amnesty to any militant willing to lay down arms. Yar'Adua supports continued resource development and has received strong backing from European governments which view the $10 billion pipeline as a way to lessen their reliance on fickle Russian gas companies for their oil supply.

Bulgaria's ruling socialist coalition suffered a staggering defeat in Sunday's national elections, as the right-wing opposition expect to gain 117 seats in the 240-member parliament. Boyko Borisov, who will serve as prime minister once a government is formed, rallied support from an electorate distraught with the socialist coalition's handling of the recession and its flagrant corruption that has cost the nation European Union development funds. Regime-change of this sort is not uncommon in Bulgaria, where no incumbent government has served more than a single term since the nation held its first free elections in 1990. Borisov, perhaps learning from his predecessors' mistakes, was reluctant to set expectations too high. "Our programme is a four-year programme; do not expect miracles after four or five months," he said in a post-election press conference.

North Korea test-fired seven mid-range missiles into the Sea of Japan on Saturday, prompting harsh criticism from South Korea, China, Japan, and Russia as well as several Western nations. South Korea’s foreign ministry has called the test “a provocative act” that violates recent UN Security Council sanctions against North Korean ballistic missile activity.  It comes only two days after failed North-South peace talks prompted Pyongyang to test-fire four anti-ship missiles. While U.S. officials also denounced the launch over the weekend, they commented that the sanctions work and are an “effective way of stopping proliferation.” As proof of progress, U.S. chief of naval operations Gary Roughead noted the recent return to port of a North Korean ship, tracked by the U.S. Navy under a UN mandate, that had been headed towards Myanmar bearing illegal arms. The UN Security Council will meet today to discuss North Korea as a sanctions committee weighs further economic constraints.

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