An attack at a train station in China’s western city of Urumqi was carried out by two religious extremists, who both died in the blast, the government said on Thursday.
Three people were killed, including the assailants, and 79 wounded in a bomb and knife attack at the station on Wednesday, according to the government and state media, as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a visit to the area. The Xinjiang regional government said on its official news website (www.ts.cn) that the two attackers who were killed had “long been influenced by extremist religious thought and participated in extremist religious activities”.
It identified one of them as Sedierding Shawuti, a 39-year-old man from Xinjiang’s Aksu region. The man is a member of the Muslim Uighur minority, judging by his name. It did not identify the other person. The third person who was killed was a bystander, the government said.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, said earlier on its microblog that “two mobsters set off bombs on their bodies and died”.
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But the newspaper did not call it a suicide bombing. Xinjiang, 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 unrest is China’s heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Uighur people.
The blast was the first bomb attack in the capital of Xinjiang region in 17 years. It came soon after the arrival of a train from a mainly Han Chinese province, state media said. Xinhua news agency earlier cited police as saying “knife-wielding mobs” slashed at people at an exit of the station and set off explosives.
On Thursday, dozens of police were parked around the station, while camouflaged police with assault rifles patrolled its entrance. Despite the security, the station appeared to be operate normally. The government called the attackers “terrorists”, a term it uses to describe Islamist militants and separatists in Xinjiang who have waged a sometimes violent campaign for an independent East Turkestan state.
State media did not say if Xi, who was wrapping up his visit to the region, was anywhere near Urumqi at the time. There has been no claim of responsibility. In remarks released on Thursday from Xi’s trip to Xinjiang, the president urged troops there to “strike crushing blows against violent terrorist forces and resolutely strike against terrorists who are swollen with arrogance”. “Resolutely crush the space for terrorist activities and contain the spreading trend of escalation,” Xi said.