BEIJING: Explosives hurled from two vehicles which ploughed into an open market in China’s troubled Xinjiang region killed 31 people yesterday, state media reported, the deadliest act of violence in the region in years.
China called the attack in the regional capital of Urumqi a “serious violent terrorist incident” and domestic security chief Meng Jianzhu vowed to strengthen a crackdown on the “arrogance of terrorists”. Ninety-four people were wounded.
China has blamed a series of knife and bomb attacks in recent months on separatist militants from Xinjiang, the traditional home of the ethnic Muslim Uighurs. The cross-country vehicles rammed into shoppers in an open market, Xinhua news agency reported, citing witness reports. Explosives were flung out of the windows, and one of the vehicles exploded.
One witness said he saw the aftermath of the blasts on his way to work. “The air was full of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of sobbing,” he said. “There were simply too many (casualties), old folks who were at the morning market.”
A business owner said he heard a dozen loud explosions at the market in Urumqi.
Xinjiang has been plagued by violence for years, but rights activists and exile groups say the government’s own heavy handed policies in the region have sowed the seeds of unrest.
“There were two vehicles that drove like crazy towards the morning market,” another witness who declined to give his name said by telephone.
“The market was total chaos. Hawkers and shoppers started running everywhere... it was definitely a terrorist act. I’m so angry.” Other photos showed riot police on the scene and bodies lying amid flames. Produce and debris were scattered across the street.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uighur Congress, said that while he wasn’t sure who committed the attack, he believed Beijing’s policies in the region should be examined. Reuters