BEIJING, May 23 (UPI) —
China initiated an assault on terrorism Friday after explosions in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang killed at least 39 people.
The state news agency Xinhua announced a “one-year crackdown on violent terrorist activities” in the volatile region after two vehicles drove into an open-air market in the city of Urumqi, tossing explosives into crowds. The vehicles themselves then exploded. Over 90 people were injured in the chaotic incident, and many of the casualties were elderly people who regularly attended the market.
Authorities in the city of 3.3 million tightened security checks and inspected luggage, transport facilities and postal deliveries. Guo Shengkun, China’s public security minister, visited the scene and called for severe punishment for those responsible.
Ethnic tensions in the area indict indigenous Uighurs for the crime, a predominately Muslim ethnic group that has grown resentful of the influx into the area of Han Chinese. Some Uighurs are bitter over treatment by Han security officials, and upset the Han — who make up 90 percent of China’s population — dominate Xinjiang’s economic opportunities.
Prior terrorist attacks — including a train station bombing in April that killed three people and wounded 79 in Urumqi, a mass knife attack in March that killed 29 people in Kunming, and a car explosion in October 2013 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed five — were blamed on Islamic separatists from Xinjiang.
Four of the assailants in this week’s incident in Urumqi were killed in the explosion and are not part of the official death count. A fifth was arrested Thursday.