According to Chinese state media, 31 people have died in a bomb attack in a Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang province. The attack took place early Thursday morning and hit an open air market. In addition to the 31 dead, Xinhua reports that at least 90 people have been injured. The attack ranks among the most severe to have hit China in recent years. Chinese state officials have deemed the incident a terrorist attack and the Chief of National Public Security is allegedly heading to Urumqi to investigate.
With the exception of the casualty counts and the nature of the attack, little else has been verified so far. The People’s Daily tweeted that the attack was carried out by two “off-road cars randomly hitting pedestrians b4 set off explosive device [sic].” The explosions occured at 7:50 a.m. according to Xinhua.
Chinese netizens took to Weibo to share eyewitness images from the scene of the attack. China’s government censors have been quick to moderate any discussion of the ethnic politics underlying the uneasy state of affairs in Xinjiang. However, several Weibo commentators have already referred to the possibility that the attack was orchestrated by disgruntled extremist Uighur groups in the region, notably the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) which has claimed responsibility for bombings and other attacks in China.
Recently, Chinese police formally blamed ETIM for the train station attack in Urumqi that killed three people in April. Additionally, Chinese police began an international manhunt for an ETIM member known as Ismail Yusup who allegedly masterminded that attack, according to the Wall Street Journal.
President Xi Jinping, as he has done in response to recent terror attacks in China, vowed to “severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability” in response to the attacks. Police in and around Urumqi will ramp up their patrols and security practices in light of Thursday’s attacks.