The incident, which occurred in Urumqi on Thursday morning, was
the second suicide attack in the capital in just over three weeks. A
bomb and knife attack at an Urumqi train station in late April
killed one bystander and wounded 79.
The government recently launched a campaign to strike hard against
terrorism in Xinjiang, blaming Islamists and separatists for the
worsening violence in the resource-rich western region bordering
central Asia. At least 180 people have been killed in attacks across
China over the past year.
The attackers ploughed two vehicles into an open market in Urumqi
and hurled explosives. Many of the 94 people wounded were elderly
shoppers, according to witnesses.
"Five suspects who participated in the violent terrorist attack blew
themselves up," the Global Times, a tabloid run by the People's
Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party,
reported on Friday.
The newspaper said authorities "are investigating whether there were
"Judging from the many terrorist attacks that have taken place and
the relevant perpetrators, they have received support from terrorist
groups outside China's borders as well as religious extremist
propaganda spread via the internet," Chinese Foreign Ministry
spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily news briefing.
No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack.
Pan Zhiping, a retired expert on Central Asia at Xinjiang's Academy
of Social Science, said Thursday's attack was the deadliest ever in
He said the "terrorists" received training overseas from groups like
the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and gained combat
experience in Syria.
"They are now definitely organized and these small organizations are
very tight," Pan said. "If it's not possible to crack a small
organization, then I think this kind of thing will continue to
SPREADING "TERRORISM PROBLEM"
Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest in
Xinjiang is China's heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam
and the culture and language of ethnic Uighurs, Turkic speaking
The Uighurs have long complained of official discrimination in favor
of the Han people, China's majority ethnic group.
Residents said the morning market, where the attack occurred, was
predominantly frequented by Han Chinese customers, though many of
the vendors were Uighurs.
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A Han Chinese man, surnamed Zheng, said he had left the market just
20 minutes before the attack occurred. He said after he heard the
blast, he rushed back to see plumes of black smoke rising into the
sky and people running away.
"How are people supposed to live life when you can't even go to buy
vegetables? It's so terrible," he told Reuters.
"I just got here, but if I had the means, I'd consider leaving
Urumqi for someplace safer," Zheng said, adding that other morning
markets were also closed.
China has been grappling with a rise in suicide attacks. A car burst
into flames at the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October,
killing five people.
Chinese police blamed the ETIM for the Urumqi train station attack
last month, state news agency Xinhua said on Sunday, the first time
the separatists have been directly linked to the assault.
The ETIM has been accused by the United States and China of having
ties to al Qaeda, but there is disagreement among security experts
over the nature of the group and whether ties with al Qaeda and
other militant organizations really exist.
"It looks like (the Chinese authorities) have a metastasizing
domestic terrorism problem," Kenneth Lieberthal, a China expert with
the Brookings Institution, told Reuters.
"I think the evidence suggests to date that if anything, the rethink
(on Xinjiang policy) will be to get tougher."
(Additional reporting by Li Hui, Sui-Lee Wee and Megha Rajagopalan
in BEIJING and James Pomfret in HONG KONG, Writing by Sui-Lee Wee;
Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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