Security tight in China's Urumqi after bloody attack at street market
May 25, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
URUMQI, China -- Security was tight Saturday in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang, two days after the volatile Muslim Uighur homeland suffered its bloodiest attack in years, leaving 43 people dead, including four assailants.
Armed paramilitary police were on patrol at many locations across the city, after attackers in two vehicles ploughed into shoppers and traders and threw explosives at a street market Thursday.
At North Park Street, the scene of the attack, groups of four or five armed paramilitary police stood about ten meters apart holding rifles.
Meanwhile patrols of police marched up and down the road with riot shields.
The area would have previously seen scores of traders selling groceries and fruit on wooden trailers and from cardboard boxes.
However, the street market has been closed since Thursday's bloody attack and traffic was not allowed through on Saturday.
Police were stopping journalists at the scene, taking details and warning against taking pictures.
“It (the environment) is very good today,” a policewoman told AFP, pointing to the bustling shops along the road.
At a nearby supermarket, a trader said the armed presence was welcome.
“We have got back to normal very quickly,” said the man, who did not give his name. “We are not worried anymore.”
State media said late Friday that Xinjiang had launched a “one-year campaign against terrorist violence,” as details of the suspects involved with the attack were released.
Four of them died at the scene, Xinhua news agency said, while another was arrested in Bayingolin, a vast prefecture south of Urumqi.
The men “took part in a terrorist attack on Thursday that killed 39 innocent people and injured another 94,” Xinhua said, making clear that the suspects were not included in the death toll figure.
The one-year campaign against terrorists and religious extremist groups would target “gun and explosive manufacturing dens and terrorist training camps,” state media said.
It was launched as more than 1,000 military personnel and police staged a drill through the streets of Urumqi Friday in a defiant show of force.
Beijing described the market attack as the latest “severe terrorist incident” to hit the far western region.
Critics of China's policies in Xinjiang say that tensions in the region are driven by cultural oppression, intrusive security measures and immigration by majority Han Chinese which have led to decades of discrimination and economic inequality.
Meanwhile, authorities in charge of Beijing's underground rail network said Saturday they would boost security checks at stations in response to the latest attacks, state media reported.
A measure launched in January that involves passengers at six stations near Tiananmen Square being required to go through security checks has been extended to a further three stations, the Xinhua report said, without identifying which stations.
In this Friday, May 23 photo, paramilitary policemen in armored vehicles parade on a street in Urumqi in China's northwestern region of Xinjiang. (AP)