Urumqi attack kills 31 in China’s Xinjiang region

BBC News, 22 May 2014

Attackers in China’s restive Xinjiang region have crashed two cars into shoppers at a market, killing 31 people, Chinese media reports say. They also threw explosives during the attack in the regional capital Urumqi. More than 90 people were injured, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The Ministry of Public Security called it a “violent terrorist incident”.

Xinjiang, which is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, has seen a spate of attacks in the past year.

Last month a bomb attack at a station in Urumqi killed three people and injured dozens more. China blamed the attack on Uighur separatists.

Information about incidents in the region, where ethnic tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese continue, is tightly controlled.

‘Multiple explosions’
One of the vehicles exploded in the attack, which happened on Thursday morning.

Pictures on weibo microblogs – China’s equivalent of Twitter – taken by eyewitnesses appeared to show Thursday’s attack taking place at one end of a busy market street lined with vegetable stalls.

“Witnesses said two cross-country vehicles driving from north to south ploughed into people in the market at 07:50. Explosives were thrown out of the vehicles,” the Xinhua report said.

One photo showed flames engulfing a junction. Others showed at least three fire engines mobilised to put out the fire.

Local media said eyewitnesses heard multiple explosions. The injured were taken to several hospitals, Xinhua said.

Uighurs and Xinjiang
Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
They make up about 45% of the region’s population; 40% are Han Chinese
China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
Since then, there has been large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
Uighurs fear erosion of their traditional culture
Why is there tension between China and the Uighurs?

Xinjiang lies in China’s far west, bordering Central Asia.

China says it is pouring money into the region to improve livelihoods, but some Uighurs say their traditions – including religious freedom – are being crushed by tight Chinese control.

Tensions between the two communities erupted into violence in 2009. Riots in Urumqi left some 200 people dead.

There has also been a series of violent incidents that Beijing has blamed on Uighur separatists – including an attack last year in Tiananmen Square.

Five people were killed when a car ploughed into pedestrians and then burst into flames. The three people who died in the car were Uighurs, Chinese authorities said.

The attack at Urumqi station last month came just after Chinese President Xi Jinping had visited the region.

In March, 29 people were killed in a mass knife attack at Kunming station, in southern China, that was also blamed on Uighur extremists.

This incident comes days after Chinese courts jailed 39 people as part of what the authorities called an operation to curb the spread of audio and video materials inciting terrorism.

Those jailed included a 25-year old who had incited hatred in comments made in chat rooms and a father who had preached extremism to his son, the Xinjiang Supreme Court said.

Are you in the area? Have you been affected? You can share your photos and experiences with us by emailing [email protected] using ‘Urumqi’ in the subject heading.