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A semantic based retrieval framework for traffic video sequences is proposed. In order to estimate the low-level motion data, a cluster tracking algorithm is developed. A novel hierarchical self-organizing map is applied to learn the activity patterns. By using activity pattern analysis and semantic concepts assignment, a set of activity models is generated, which is used as the indexing key for accessing video clips and individual vehicles in the semantic level. The proposed retrieval framework supports various queries including query by keywords, query by sketch and multiple object queries.