Chinese official says suspected bomb attack kills 7, wounds 14 in Xinjiang region

By Isolda Morillo, AP
Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blast kills 7, wounds 14 in China’s Xinjiang area

URUMQI, China — A bomb attack killed seven people and wounded 14 Thursday in China’s far west Xinjiang, a region beset by ethnic conflict and separatist violence.

The explosion occurred after a member of the region’s native Uighur ethnic group drove a three-wheeled vehicle laden with explosives into a crowd of people in a suburb in Aksu city in southwestern Xinjiang, said Hou Hanmin, a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government.

“Police say it was an intentional act because the suspect was carrying explosive devices,” Hou told a hastily arranged news conference in the regional capital of Urumqi, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) from Aksu.

She said the suspect, who was injured, was captured immediately. Hou did not say if it was a man or a woman.

Some of the wounded were in serious condition. “The casualties are innocent civilians of different ethnic minority backgrounds,” she said.

Xinjiang has been the site of ethnic conflict in recent years, including riots last summer when long-standing tensions between the Turkic Muslim Uighurs and China’s majority Han flared into open violence in Urumqi. The government said 197 people were killed, while hundreds of people were arrested and about two dozen sentenced to death. Many other Uighurs remain unaccounted for and are believed to be in custody.

While the riots marked China’s worst ethnic violence in decades, Xinjiang has seen a series of bombings and other violence, including attacks on security forces around the time of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The government also says it has broken up several groups intent on carrying out attacks, including a bomb-making operation near Aksu in 2009.

Xinjiang Governor Nur Bekri, speaking at a news conference Thursday before the explosion was reported, said the government was battling separatist forces in Xinjiang.

“I believe we face a long and fierce and very complicated struggle. Separatism in Xinjiang has a very long history, it was there in the past, it is still here now and it will continue in the future,” Nur said.

Germany-based Uighur activist Dilxat Raxit said the authorities’ security crackdown may be encouraging further violence.

“Since last year’s riots, we have seen … systematic oppression and provocation,” said Raxit, whose World Uyghur Congress officially opposes violence.

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