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China points to suicide blast in Urumqi attack

Associated Press

URUMQI, China (AP) -- Chinese authorities said Thursday that two religious extremists carried out a terror attack at a train station in far-western Xinjiang region by detonating explosives, in an apparent suicide bombing that also killed one other person and wounded 79.

The strike late Wednesday in Urumqi was the third high-profile attack in seven months blamed on Xinjiang extremists that targeted civilians. These attacks, two of them outside the region, have marked a departure from a previous pattern of primarily targeting local authorities in a long-simmering insurgency.

A 57-year-old woman being treated at the Xinjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital said she had just arrived from Sichuan province and was walking outside the station to meet her son when the explosives went off and knocked her to the ground.

"I saw I had shreds of flesh and blood in my hair and on my clothes. It was terrifying," said the woman, who would only give her surname, Peng.

Three Dead, 79 Injured in Bomb and Knife Attack

The official website for Xinjiang's regional government said police identified two suspects with a history of religious extremism, including a 39-year-old man from southern Xinjiang.

It did not explicitly call Wednesday's attack in the regional capital of Urumqi a suicide bombing, but said the two men detonated explosives at a train station exit and both died on the spot.

Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded "decisive" action against terrorism after the attack, which came at awkward time for him, just as he was wrapping up a four-day tour of Xinjiang aimed at underlining the government's commitment to security in the region. It was unclear if he was still in Xinjiang when the explosions took place.

"The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness," Xi said in comments published on the front page of official newspapers Thursday and carried by state television.

The blasts went off about 7 p.m. just after a train had pulled into the station and as passengers streamed out onto a plaza near a bus station.

Another survivor, a man who also gave only his surname, Liu, said the blast knocked many people to the ground.

"There was chaos. Everyone was panicking," Liu said. Police and firefighters quickly arrived and Liu said the injured were taken to hospitals in ambulances and commandeered taxis.

Earlier reports in state media quoted witnesses as saying the attack also involved knifings by a group of attackers, but the regional government's brief dispatch - saying police had solved the crime - made no mention of slashings.

Tensions between Chinese and ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang have been simmering for years, particularly since riots in 2009 in Urumqi left nearly 200 people dead, according to official figures.

Beijing blames the violence on overseas-based instigators, but has offered little evidence. Information about events in the area about 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) west of Beijing is tightly controlled.

Authorities said security was tightened at all transport hubs in the city, which has a mainly Han Chinese population who are distinct from Xinjiang's native Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

Train service was suspended for about two hours, and witnesses said the area outside the train station was cordoned off overnight.

But by afternoon Thursday, a public holiday, the train station bustled with hundreds of travelers bringing luggage and waiting in orderly lines. Paramilitary police with rifles and helmets and riot police with bulletproof vests and shields patrolled and guarded positions in groups of about a dozen each.

Street sellers hawked stacks of naan bread, while shopkeepers repaired minor damage to signs and lights on storefronts. One shopkeeper refused to let people bring their bags into his convenience store and held a short, thick wooden pole in front of him.

Photos circulating briefly on Chinese social media sites showed scattered luggage near the station's exit and a heavy presence of armed men.

The official People's Daily newspaper's microblog reported Thursday that the two attackers had strapped bombs to their bodies. That would represent a new form of attack blamed on militants who so far have primarily targeted local officials with crude weapons, including knives and farm tools.

"It would mark a new escalation and start to hint at a worrying sophistication," said Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies in London.

"However, it is as of yet unclear whether this incident is linked to groups outside, which is what I would say would elevate it to being one of the front lines in Islamist terror in the global sense," Pantucci said.

Last October, three Uighurs rammed a vehicle into crowds near the Forbidden City gate in the heart of Beijing and then crashed the car in a fiery suicide attack, killing themselves and two tourists. Police quickly cleaned up the area and released few details, and it was not clear whether the attackers used some kind of explosives.

In March, five knife-wielding men and women believed to be Uighurs slashed at crowds indiscriminately at a railway station in southwestern China, killing 29 people.

While Beijing faults separatists for raising ethnic tensions, government critics say restrictive and discriminatory policies and practices have alienated the Uighurs. They say Han people have flooded Xinjiang and benefited from its economic growth while Uighurs have felt excluded.

China has smothered Xinjiang with additional security and imposed additional restrictions on Uighur travel rights, culture and religious practices. That, say Uighur activists, is exacerbating the resentments driving the violence.

"The Urumqi explosion again proves that forceful repression is not a solution to the problem," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress based in Germany.

During his visit, Xi urged government officials to maintain social stability, promote growth, improve living standards and strengthen ethnic unity, according to state media reports.

Xi told officials that the long-term stability of Xinjiang is vital to the whole country's reform, development and stability.


Associated Press writers Chris Bodeen and Ian Mader in Beijing and videojournalist Aritz Parra in Urumqi contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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MARTHA & PERRY May 01 2014 at 9:37 PM

is the BLM over there?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
jmg62 MARTHA & PERRY May 02 2014 at 4:22 AM

No, but the XYZ is.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
JEFFERSODA May 01 2014 at 11:38 PM

Give Tibet and Sikiang their independence and you won't have any more enemies.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
johnyperryjohn JEFFERSODA May 02 2014 at 1:01 AM

how about Alaska and Hawaii?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
jmg62 johnyperryjohn May 02 2014 at 4:21 AM

What about them johnyperryjohn? Likening them to Tibet and Sikiang? Or,.....? Compare and contrast the 4 if this is your reasoning. Toss in Puerto Rico just 'cause you know you want to.

Flag 0 rate up
kcarthey JEFFERSODA May 02 2014 at 12:11 PM

How about giving the entire Old American Confederacy back to the Old American Confederates? Winning the Civil War was a costly mistake.

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jsinvent May 02 2014 at 5:07 AM

"Tensions between Chinese and ethnic Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang"

So was the bomb set by Muslims? The story doesn't say. My money is on the Muslims.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
patriot1too jsinvent May 02 2014 at 5:38 AM

Yes for a long time is is always the radical islamic muslums who are the evil doers that are trying to destroy anything they can. America and the world must not let them. God bless America.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
mike.lee9li jsinvent May 02 2014 at 11:00 AM

hmm, wonder who was behind that new terror plot uncovered in Minnesota by a high school kid. they didnt say what religion he was, but ill bet he was christian.

point is, dont blame a religion that clearly states killing innocent ppl is wrong. they are called extremists, and extremists come in every religion, shape color and size.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
eeverettm May 02 2014 at 3:12 PM

...and timid European polititians are giving in to these islamic extremist who pledged to kill all infidels. Cowards.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
moniecoins May 02 2014 at 1:50 PM

Good 4 the Chicomms!

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1 reply
JEFFERSODA moniecoins August 16 2014 at 12:37 PM

**** the Chicoms!

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J W Buckholz May 02 2014 at 1:02 PM

This isn't going to affect clothing prices at Wal-Mart, is it? That sounds better.

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J W Buckholz May 02 2014 at 1:01 PM

This is going to affect clothing prices at Wal-Mart, is it?

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Pllc15 May 02 2014 at 12:25 PM

China is not without its ethnic and minority problems that existed for nearly a millineum that failed to assimilate the different cultures under one China. Not only are the Uighurs expressing their grievances, but China is also facing challenges from peoples of Tibet and Inner-Mongolia. They only account for less than 10% of China's population but their regions account for nearly a third of China's land mass.

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Petprints May 02 2014 at 12:06 PM

Muslim terrorists are out to either turn everyone on this planet into a Muslim or die trying
they are like a cancer you cut a litle out and then you find more a little later...

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
d1anaw Petprints May 02 2014 at 3:02 PM

You mean kind of like the Christians started doing during the crusades, the witch trials and even today trying to pass laws based on their "chrisitanity"? Oh wait for it.......that's different.

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1 reply
eeverettm d1anaw May 02 2014 at 3:14 PM

Talking like a true muslim.

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dominantsonxmom May 02 2014 at 11:29 AM

Need tougher bomb ownership laws.. That will stop this.

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