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Tibet protesters claim death toll now 140

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  • Tibet exile government claims death toll from unrest now 140
  • Chinese authorities say toll much lower, says victims are "innocent" Chinese
  • Chinese restrictions mean it is difficult to confirm the figures
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KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- Tibet's exile government said the death toll from protests in the Himalayan region over the past two weeks has reached about 140, but Chinese government restrictions have made it difficult confirm the number killed.

People walk past burnt-out buildings in Lhasa on 16 March, 2008, after violent protests broke out.

Chinese authorities have issued a much lower death toll and said most of those killed were "innocent" ethnic Han Chinese targeted by rampaging Tibetans.

The Tibetan exiles published a list of 40 Tibetans they said are confirmed dead.

Meanwhile, Tibetan exiles and monks protested for a second day outside of China's embassy visa office in Kathmandu, Nepal on Tuesday, resulting in 73 protesters arrested, Nepalese police said.

Although police said they did not use force, protest organizers said as many as 12 people were hurt when police charged them with bamboo sticks. Video Watch demonstrator in tears as monks arrested ».

Protests involving Tibet also dogged the Olympic flame, which was lit in a ceremony Monday in Olympia, Greece. The torch is scheduled to be carried to sites around the world on its way to the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and Tibetan activist say they plan anti-Chinese protests along the way.

Another group of about 50 Tibetan exiles in India began their own torch relay Tuesday with a symbolic "Olympic" flame that will end in Tibet on the day of the Summer Games' opening ceremonies in Beijing, The Associated Press reported.

On Monday, Greek police arrested some of the protesters along the first miles of the torch relay, but the demonstrations were peaceful and police reported no injuries or scuffles.

At one point, a Tibetan woman covered herself with red paint and lay on the ground, forcing the torchbearer to weave around her as other protesters shouted "Flame of shame."

Students for a Free Tibet, a Tibetan exile group, said its protesters would challenge police as the flame moves through 23 cities on five continents before passing throughout China. Tibetan activists will follow it through "London, Paris and everywhere else China's stained Olympic Torch goes," the group said.

The group said the Chinese government "will pressure other governments to silence peaceful protesters who expose the truth behind China's Olympics propaganda campaign."

"The Chinese government's long arm has already extended to San Francisco, where Tibetans are being told they cannot protest along the Torch Relay route," the group said in a news release.

Also Monday, five Tibetans were arrested for deadly arson attacks stemming from the anti-China riots that erupted this month, China's government announced.

A Chinese Ministry of public security official said the suspects have confessed to two arson incidents that killed 10 people in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, according to the state-run news agency Xinhua.

Ministry spokesman Shan Huimin said three female suspects were detained for a March 14 fire at a shop, in which five female sales assistants were burned to death, Xinhua reported.

In the second case, two males were detained for setting fire to a motorcycle shop on March 15, which resulted in five deaths -- including an 8-month-old boy and his parents, according to Xinhua.

Shan said the violence in Lhasa between March 14 and 15 also injured 242 police officers, according to Xinhua. However, Shan added, peace has been restored to the area.

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Clashes between anti-Chinese protesters in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and other cities broke out earlier this month, and Chinese officials blamed the Dalai Lama's followers for the violence.

The Tibetan government in exile said at least 80 people were killed by police, but Chinese officials put the death toll at 13. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Manesh Shrestha in Nepal contributed to this report

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