Chinese authorities blamed a railway attack in Xinjiang last month on an overseas Islamic extremist group, state media said yesterday, reinforcing Beijing’s claims that foreign militants are provoking domestic unrest.
The far-west Xinjiang region, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, has seen periodic violence. Beijing says it faces an increase in terrorism from a violent separatist movement there, driven by religious extremism and foreign groups.
However, critics accuse it of exaggerating that threat to justify hardline measures, and instead point to cultural and religious repression and resentment that economic development has mostly benefited an influx of ethnic Han.
On April 30, the final day of a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to the region, assailants armed with knives and explosives carried out an attack at a railway station in Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, killing one person and wounding 79.
“Notorious terrorist group the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement was behind the fatal attack,” Xinhua news agency reported, citing police.
It did not immediately provide further details.
Two of the alleged attackers were killed during the incident, while the state-run Global Times daily reported earlier that seven others were arrested last week over the incident.
The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a militant Islamist group, released a video online showing the construction of a briefcase bomb allegedly used in the attack, the US-based SITE Intelligence Group — which monitors extremist organizations — said on Tuesday.
However, in response to that, several analysts said they doubted whether the TIP had the capability to launch such attacks, suggesting that it could be looking to raise its profile.
In recent months violence attributed to people from Xinjiang has spread beyond that region. In March, attackers went on a stabbing spree at a railway station in the southwestern city of Kunming, leaving 29 people dead and 143 injured in an incident dubbed “China’s 9/11” by state media.
In another high-profile incident in October last year, three family members from Xinjiang crashed their car into tourists at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, killing two before setting the vehicle on fire and dying.
In 2009 ethnic riots erupted in Urumqi between Uighurs and the country’s majority Han Chinese, leaving 200 people dead and prompting a security crackdown.