Attackers killed at least 31 people Thursday when they ploughed two vehicles into a market and threw explosives in the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, in what authorities called the latest “severe terrorist incident” to hit the Muslim Uighur homeland.
More than 90 people were also wounded when two off-road vehicles drove into a crowd in Urumqi, with one of them exploding, the regional government’s Tianshan web portal said, in an attack with echoes of a fiery car crash in Tiananmen Square last year.
Pictures posted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese equivalent of Twitter, showed victims lying in a tree-lined street, as others sat on flimsy stools.
Flames rose in the background, while other images showed smoke billowing over market stalls behind a police roadblock. None of the photographs could immediately be verified.
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to “severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinjiang, a vast and resource-rich region in China’s far west, has seen periodic violence which has increased and sometimes spread beyond it in recent months.
Beijing says it faces terrorism from a violent separatist movement there, driven by religious extremism and foreign groups, while critics point to economic inequality and cultural and religious repression of Uighurs as causes of unrest.
Tianshan described the attack as a “severe, violent terrorist incident”.