Xi Jinping demands action against those behind blast

The official People’s Daily newspaper’s microblog reported on Thursday that two of those killed were attackers who had strapped bombs to their bodies. The report could not immediately be confirmed. A group of knife-wielding attackers slashed at passengers and set off explosives near an exit of the South Station in the regional capital Urumqi, late on Wednesday, official reports said.

The attack followed Xi’s four-day trip, in which he visited local officials and police to stress the government’s security efforts in the region, which has experienced rising violence blamed on radical Islamists and separatists. A 57-year-old woman being treated at the Xinjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital said she had just got off a train from Sichuan province and was walking outside to meet her son when the blast went off.

‘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. Another survivor, a man who also gave only his surname, Liu, said the station exit had been crowded with people when the blast went off.

‘After the blast, there was chaos. Everyone was panicking,’ said Liu. Police and firefighters quickly arrived and Liu said the injured were taken to hospitals in ambulances and commandeered taxis. 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.

There was no immediate word on arrests and it was unclear whether Xi was still in the region at the time of the attack. Information about events in the area about 2,500 km west of Beijing is tightly controlled and it was difficult to immediately verify many of the details. ‘At the moment, it is acknowledged to be a terrorist attack. What is yet to be found out is who did this and for what purpose under whose instigation,’ the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

Although authorities provided no details of suspects, the Chinese president said in his comments after the attack that authorities were in a long-term battle against Xinjiang separatists. Recent attacks blamed on separatists have appeared increasingly organized and more likely to target civilians as well as authorities. ‘The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness, and decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists’ rampant momentum,’ Xi said in comments published on the front page of official newspapers on Thursday and carried by state television.

Train service was suspended for about two hours, Xinhua said. It 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.
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