Three die, 73 injured in Urumqi train station blast

May 01, 2014 - 12:00:00 am

BEIJING:  BEIJING: Three people were killed and 79 others injured in an attack on a railway station in China’s Xinjiang region late yesterday, state media said.

China’s official news agency Xinhua said attackers slashed people with knives and set off explosives at the south railway station in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi, calling it called a “violent terrorist attack”.

The attack came on the same day that President Xi Jinping ended a visit to the restive region in China’s far west that is home to the country’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority.

Four people were seriously injured but were “in a stable condition” after being sent to hospital for treatment, Xinhua reported, citing local Communist Party officials. 

The People’s Daily said on its official microblog that some people had been injured and taken to hospital. The government and state media did not give a cause for the blast.

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist militants and separatists.

Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is China’s heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

Xinjiang government spokesman Luo Fuyong said authorities were still assessing casualty figures and the cause of the blast. He would not speculate on whether it was a militant attack.

“The situation has been bought well under control,” he said by telephone. “The wounded are receiving medical attention ... Public security forces are on the scene dealing with it.”

“We are deeply concerned by what has happened,” Luo added. 

Unrest in Xinjiang has led to the deaths of more than 100 people in the past year, prompting a tougher stance against Turkic-language speaking Uighurs, many of whom chafe at government controls on their culture and religion. 

Pictures on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service, which could not independently verify, showed blood on suitcases and debris on the ground in front of the station. 

Another picture showed what appeared to be a small blast area near a police post, though it was unclear if there were any casualties in the photograph. 

Many of posts carrying these pictures were quickly removed by censors, as often happens in stability-obsessed China.

Xinhua said the blast was centred on luggage left on the ground between an exit and a bus stop. The station re-opened at 9.00 pm, some two hours after the blast, under a heavy police presence, it added.

It was not clear if President Xi was still in Xinjiang at the time of the blast at the end of his four-day visit to the region in which he stressed ethnic unity and tough policing. “The long-term stability of Xinjiang is vital to the whole country’s reform, development and stability; to the country’s unity, ethnic harmony and national security as well as to the great revival of the Chinese nation,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying during his visit, in a report yesterday.

China’s nervousness about militancy, especially Islamic extremism, has grown since a car burst into flames on the edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October, and 29 people were stabbed to death last month in the southwestern city of Kunming. The government said Xinjiang militants were responsible for both incidents.

Agencies

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