Car and bomb attack on market kills 31 in Xinjiang

Car ploughed through Urumqi shoppers, as exposives fired out window, says China

People look on at a street cordoned off by police after a blast in Urumqi, Xinjiang,  on Thursday. Explosives hurled from two vehicles which ploughed into an open market in China’s troubled Xinjiang killed 31 people. Photograph: CNSphoto/Reuters

People look on at a street cordoned off by police after a blast in Urumqi, Xinjiang, on Thursday. Explosives hurled from two vehicles which ploughed into an open market in China’s troubled Xinjiang killed 31 people. Photograph: CNSphoto/Reuters

 

In the latest act of violence to rock the restive northwestern province of Xinjiang, assailants launched an explosive attack on a market in the provincial capital Urumqi, killing 31 and injuring scores.

A local government statement, carried on the state news agency Xinhua, said two off-road vehicles without licence plates broke through roadside fences and ploughed into shoppers at an open-air market near Renmin Park at 7.50am and tossed explosives out of the windows.

One of the SUVs exploded. A business owner in the market told Xinhua he heard a dozen large bangs. China has blamed a series of knife and bomb attacks in recent months on separatist militants from Xinjiang, a resource-rich region that is the traditional home of the ethnic Muslim Uighurs, who are culturally distinct from China’s ethnic Han majority.

Tiananmen Square Violence linked to Uighur separatists has been on the increase since October when an SUV rammed into a crowd and burst into flames at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing the three occupants and two bystanders.

On April 30th, a bomb and knife attack at an Urumqi train station on killed three people, while a train station assault in the southwestern city of Kunming in March left 33 people dead.

In 2009, there were violent riots in Xinjiang, when hundreds of locals took to the streets in Urumqi, burning and smashing vehicles. Dozens were killed in the unrest.

President Xi Jinping said police would “step up patrols and security controls over possible terrorist targets and prevent ripple effects” and promised to severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability. A work panel led by public security minister Guo Shengkun has headed for Xinjiang to join the investigation, Xinhua said.

Beijing blames the East Turkestan Islamic Movement for past violence in Xinjiang, saying it is China’s most potent security threat.

Uighur separatist The movement was founded by an Uighur separatist and listed as a terrorist organisation by the US State Department in 2002.

In recent weeks, China has stepped up a crackdown on Uighurs in the region, jailing dozens for spreading extremist propaganda and manufacturing arms. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the attack was “anti-human, anti-society and anti-civilisation, and should be condemned in one voice by Chinese and the international community”.

“These terrorists are swollen with arrogance. Their schemes will not succeed,” Mr Hong said at a news briefing

Earlier this week, police opened fire at a protest by hundreds of mostly Uighurs angry over the detention of women and school girls for wearing headscarves, according to a report by Radio Free Asia.