| URUMQI, China
URUMQI, China May 2 China's foreign ministry
has reacted angrily to U.S. criticism of the level of
cooperation from Beijing on fighting terrorism, after an
apparent suicide bombing in the country's far west pointed to a
possible escalation of unrest there.
The Chinese government has blamed religious extremists for
carrying out a bomb and knife attack at a train station in
Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, on Wednesday evening that
killed one bystander and wounded 79.
Security was heavy on Friday in Urumqi, scene of deadly
riots five years ago between Muslim Uighurs and ethnic Han
Chinese in which almost 200 were killed.
The train station was bustling, with hundreds of migrant
workers arriving from around China for seasonal work. Many sat
on their bags in the station plaza waiting for trains to other
parts of the region.
Units of armed police carrying assault rifles and sharpened
black metal poles with hand grips marched in file around the
station grounds. Black police vans and armoured troop transports
were parked in front of the station's entrance.
Resource-rich and strategically located Xinjiang, on the
borders of central Asia, has for years been beset by violence
blamed by the Chinese government on Islamist militants and
separatists, but suicide attacks have been extremely rare.
"China falls victim of terrorism, and always firmly opposes
terrorism in any form and terrorist acts conducted or backed by
any person under any name," the foreign ministry said in a
statement late on Thursday.
Beijing is unhappy at the U.S. State Department's 2013
country reports on terrorism, published last month, which said
China's cooperation on fighting terrorism "remained marginal"
and that the Chinese provided scarce evidence to prove terrorist
involvement in incidents in Xinjiang.
"On the issue of fighting terrorism, to make irresponsible
remarks towards other countries and adopting double standards
will not help international cooperation on counter-terrorism,"
The foreign ministry said.
Xinjiang's regional government said on its official news
website on Thursday that the Urumqi attack had been carried out
by two men who had "long been influenced by extremist religious
thought and participated in extremist religious activities".
Both were killed in the blast, it said. It identified one of
them as Sedirdin Sawut, a 39-year-old man from Xayar county in
Xinjiang's Aksu region. The man is a member of the Muslim Uighur
minority, judging by his name.
There have been suicide bombings before in China, mostly by
people with personal grievances, but it has generally not been a
tactic employed by Uighurs.
In October, a car ploughed into tourists on the edge of
Beijing's Tiananmen Square, killing the car's three occupants
and two bystanders, in what the government believed was a
suicide attack by people from Xinjiang.
Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the
unrest in Xinjiang is China's heavy-handed policies, including
curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Uighur
Urumqi is heavily populated by Han Chinese, who have flooded
there seeking business opportunities. Uighurs have complained
that they have been frozen out of the job market. Many were
reluctant to talk to reporters.
"I just don't believe it was a Uighur who did this," one
35-year-old Uighur man selling dried fruit about 100 metres from
the blast site told Reuters on Thursday. "These public spaces
aren't safe for anyone, Uighur or Han."
Accounts of Wednesday's attack have come mostly from China's
heavily censored state media. Independent reporting in Xinjiang
is extremely difficult due to the tight security and wariness
many Uighurs have at talking to foreign reporters.
The Xinhua news agency cited police as saying
"knife-wielding mobs" slashed at people at an exit of the
station and set off explosives.
The bombing, the first in Urumqi in 17 years, was possibly
timed to coincide with a visit to the region with a large Muslim
minority by President Xi Jinping. State media did not say
whether Xi was anywhere near Urumqi at the time.
The government called the attackers "terrorists", a term it
uses to describe Islamist militants and separatists in Xinjiang
who have waged a sometimes violent campaign for an independent
East Turkestan state.
In Washington, the State Department also said all signs
pointed to the attack being the work of terrorists.
"Based on the information we have seen, including what has
been reported by the Chinese media, this appears to be an act of
terrorism that targets random members of the public," State
Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a daily briefing.
Thursday's foreign ministry statement said China has always
sought to combat terrorism in accordance with law while paying
attention to "eliminating both the symptoms and root causes of
terrorism", adding that China opposed "linking terrorism to
specific ethnic groups or religions".
The station bombing was the largest militant attack in
Urumqi since the government blamed Uighurs for stabbing hundreds
of Han Chinese with needles in 2009. No one was killed in that
Unrest in Xinjiang has caused the deaths of more than 100
people in the past year, prompting a tougher stance against the
Turkic-language speaking Uighurs, many of whom resent government
controls on their culture and religion.
In March, 29 people were stabbed to death in the
southwestern city of Kunming, far from Xinjiang and on the
borders of Southeast Asia. The government blamed that attack on
(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by