31 killed in Xinjiang attack

By Chang Meng Source:Global Times Published: 2014-5-23 1:13:01

A Thursday morning terrorist attack at a market in Urumqi, capital of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, left at least 31 dead and another 94 injured, according to authorities.

The Global Times learned that initial investigations showed five attackers died in the attack while police were investigating if there are accomplices at large. It is not clear whether they were included in the death toll.

Two vehicles without license plates broke through roadside fences and plowed into the crowd at a market at Gongyuan Beijie in the Sayibak district at 7:50 am. Explosive devices were also set off, said a statement issued by the publicity department of Xinjiang.

Local government deployed enormous medical resources to treat the injured, and launched an emergency response system. According to the Xinhua News Agency, the injured include people are from both Han and Uyghur ethnic groups.

Two cross-country vehicles with flags that "seemed to be carrying Uyghur characters" deliberately ran into shoppers and vendors before bombs were thrown out, a witness, who declined to be named, told the Global Times.

People, including the elderly, hardly had time to escape the packed open-air grocery market and fell down before they were hit, said the witness.

The cars stopped at the end of the street and exploded, according to Xinhua.

Some Urumqi residents told the Global Times that four cars were involved, two fled the scene and one has since been caught. This could not be immediately verified.

A Xinjiang law enforcement source told the Global Times Thursday that the market is used by residents of various ethnic groups, and in an area where armed police are deployed.

The source said clues suggested that the terrorists were well-prepared as they chose SUVs with a higher chassis to break the fences set up around the market.

The attack site is right next to the No.6 Elementary School of Urumqi and No.5 Junior High School, where the majority of the student body is ethnic Uyghur.

Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to severely punish terrorists and offered condolences to family members of the victims right after the attack took place.

Xi ordered local authorities to solve the case quickly. Police will intensify patrols and security control over possible terrorist targets and prevent ripple effects, said Xi.

A work group led by Guo Shengkun, minister of public security, has headed to Xinjiang to join the investigation.

A resident in southern Xinjiang's city of Kashi said that local police had beefed up serious security checks on vehicles after the attack.

The incident came short of a month after another terrorist attack at Urumqi South Railway Station on April 30 after Xi concluded an inspection to Xinjiang. Two attackers killed themselves and a civilian, injuring 79 during knife attacks and blasts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday sent a message of condolence to President Xi and strongly condemned the terrorist attack, hoping to strengthen anti-terrorism cooperation with China.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy to China posted on its Sina Weibo account Thursday that it wished to send sincere condolences to all people affected by the "violent attacks" in Urumqi, refraining from using the term "terrorism." The post received over 16,000 comments, most questioning its "double standard" on defining terrorism. 

No organizations have claimed responsibility for the attack. Dilxat Raxit, spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, said in an e-mail to Reuters that while he was unsure who carried out the attack, he believed Beijing's policies in the region should be examined.

A source familiar with anti-terrorism in Urumqi said that they are currently facing several challenges, including elusive communication between terrorists using modern information technology, and familial involvement in terrorist activities which resulted in cover-ups and escape routes.

"Overseas support provides funding and technology for explosive-making, and some extremists consider attacks as martyrdom," the source said.  

China has devoted much more efforts to anti-terrorism in recent years and is preparing to introduce a specific law, but intelligence work needs to be improved, said experts.

Intensified public security measures and anti-terrorism drills have been conducted across the country since April, with armed police starting to patrol the streets 24/7 in cities including Shanghai, Nanjing and Chongqing.

Nur Bekri, chairman of Xinjiang, addressed residents on television Thursday to condemn the terrorists, vowing zero tolerance for the assailants and calling for unity from residents.

Many Xinjiang residents from different ethnic groups expressed their strong condemnation of terrorists online Thursday, saying the public would not fear violence and would not allow the thugs to achieve their goal.

Newspaper headline: Vehicles plow into market, set off explosives

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