URUMQI, China — Attackers hurled bombs from two SUVs that plowed through shoppers at a busy street market in China’s volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang yesterday, killing 31 people and wounding more than 90.
The early morning attack in the city of Urumqi was the bloodiest in a series of violent incidents over recent months that Chinese authorities have blamed on radical separatists from the country’s Muslim Uighur minority.
The Xinjiang region is home to the native Turkic-speaking Uighurs but has seen large inflows from China’s ethnic Han majority in recent decades. Uighur activists contend that restrictive and discriminatory policies favoring the Chinese migrants are fueling the bloodshed. The knowledge that Muslims elsewhere are rising up against their governments also seems to be contributing to the increased militancy.
The two vehicles crashed through barriers at 7:50 a.m. and drove right into the crowds while setting off explosives, according to a statement by the Xinjiang regional government. It was unclear how many assailants were in the cars.
The SUVs then crashed head-on, and one of them exploded, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It quoted an eyewitness as saying there were up to a dozen blasts in all and that at one point, one of the vehicles stopped because it was blocked by bodies and handcarts.
“I heard four or five explosions. I was very scared. I saw three or four people lying on the ground,” Fang Shaoying, the owner of a small supermarket near the scene of the attack, told The Associated Press by phone.
Photos from the scene posted to popular Chinese social media site Weibo showed at least three people lying in a street with a large fire in the distance giving off huge plumes of smoke. Others, many of them elderly people who frequent the early-morning market, were sitting in the roadway in shock.