China shuts down Internet in Xinjiang region after riots

China has completely shut down Internet service in the autonomous region of Xinjiang after ethnic riots left at least 140 people dead and hundreds more injured. Twitter also appears to be blocked throughout the country.

Government-owned news agency Xinhua is reporting that the violence began when Uighur demonstrators "started beating pedestrians and smash [sic] buses." The article quotes a public security official who says, "it was like a war zone here, with many bodies of ethnic Han people lying on the road."

News coming through citizen media sources and residents of Xinjiang, however, suggests that Chinese police may have been responsible for initiating the violence, in which Uighurs as well as Han Chinese were injured and killed.

According to the AFP, the violence was first reported via Twitter. Videos, photos and blog entries quickly followed, though the Chinese government has been deleting or blocking access to much of the China-based online content on the incident.

Residents of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, have been without Internet access since Sunday evening, the Washington Post reports. Local and regional government Web sites appear to have been shut down as well.

The online crackdown has not been limited to Xinjiang: Chinese Internet users throughout the country are reporting that they are unable to access to Twitter., which logs user reports of inaccessible sites around the world, has received over 150 reports that Twitter is down in China in the past 24 hours.

The government also appears to be blocking search requests containing the word "Urumqi," according to the BBC.