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Marketplace bombing kills 31 in far western China

URUMQI, China -- Assailants in two SUVs plowed through shoppers while setting off explosives on a busy street market in China's volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang on Thursday, local officials said, killing 31 people and injuring more than 90.

The attack in the city of Urumqi was the bloodiest in a series of violent incidents over recent months that Chinese authorities have blamed on radical separatists from the country's Muslim Uighur minority. The Xinjiang regional government said in a statement that the early morning attack was “a serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature.”

The two vehicles crashed through barriers at 7:50 a.m. and drove right into the crowds while setting off explosives, the statement said.

The SUVs then crashed head-on and one of them exploded, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It quoted an eyewitness as saying there were up to a dozen blasts in all.

Hours afterward, armed paramilitary police and SWAT units patrolled streets surrounding the scene of the attack. News photographers and videographers were told not to take pictures and were forced to delete their images.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack. Recent violence has been blamed on extremists seeking to overthrow Chinese rule in the region, which is home to the native Turkic-speaking Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) but has seen large inflows from China's ethnic Han majority in recent decades.

The death toll was the highest for violence in Xinjiang since days-long riots in Urumqi in 2009 between Uighurs and Hans left almost 200 people dead. Thursday's attack also was the bloodiest single act of violence in Xinjiang in recent history.

“I heard four or five explosions. I was very scared. I saw three or four people lying on the ground,” Fang Shaoying, the owner of a small supermarket near the scene of the attack, told The Associated Press by phone.

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In this CNA image taken from Sina Weibo, China's networking site, a policeman directs operations while fire from truck bombings in Xinjiang burns in the background, Thursday, May 22. (CNA)



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