The Chinese government is blaming suicide bombers tied to religious extremists for a bombing in the northwestern region of Xinjiang this week that killed three and injured dozens.
The explosion followed a knife attack by a group of individuals at the station in regional capital Urumqi, from which many of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority hail. The South China Morning Post reports that two of the three killed were part of the assailant group and that four of the 79 injured are in critical condition. The paper also notes that an Uyghur separatist group currently based in Germany has claimed that more than 100 ethnic Uyghurs have been arrested in the aftermath of the attack, though they have not been able to independently corroborate that report.
The response from the Chinese government has been swift, with President Xi Jinping visiting the region and delivering a speech promising swift action against terrorist groups. According to Xinhua, Xi reacted to the attack by demanding that Chinese law enforcement “make terrorists like rats scurrying across a street, with everybody shouting ‘beat them!'” Xi also announced a “strike first” policy against terrorism in statements published by the newspaper and noted that “safeguarding the country’s unity and fighting separatism are of the upmost importance and in the basic interests of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang.”
Xi was in the province on an official trip that had concluded hours before the blast, which has prompted some to suggest that the attack was timed to coincide with that visit. The New York Post notes that the government’s and President’s statements in particular have been very clear to use the word “terrorists” to describe the attackers, which indicates a suspicion on the government’s behalf that the attack was the doing of Uyghur Muslims.
The government so far has said that two individuals are now suspected of committing the attack and that the suspects indeed have a history of working with terror groups in Uyghur communities. The Daily Mail adds that this attack is the third such attack blamed on extremists in the Xinjiang region, though the first in the series to occur in the province itself.
A Reuters report identifies one of the suspects as Sedierding Shawuti, “a 39-year-old man from Xayar county in Xinjiang’s Aksu region” who appears to be Uyghur from his name. The identity of the other two was not revealed, though one of the two was killed in the blast, reports claim, along with Shawuti. Reuters notes that the state-owned newspaper People’s Daily described the men as “mobsters.”