China train station blast seen as suicide attack

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 2, 2014 at 12:40 am •  Published: May 2, 2014
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URUMQI, China (AP) — Chinese authorities say that two religious extremists carried out a terror attack at a train station in far-western Xinjiang region by detonating explosives, in an apparent suicide bombing that also killed one other person and wounded 79.

The strike late Wednesday in Urumqi was the third high-profile attack in seven months blamed on Xinjiang extremists that targeted civilians. These attacks, two of them outside the region, have marked a departure from a previous pattern of primarily targeting local authorities in a long-simmering insurgency.

A 57-year-old woman being treated at the Xinjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital said she had just arrived from Sichuan province and was walking outside the station to meet her son when the explosives went off and knocked her to the ground.

"I saw I had shreds of flesh and blood in my hair and on my clothes. It was terrifying," said the woman, who would give only her surname, Peng.

The attack prompted increased security in Urumqi, and in China's capital Beijing, police held a terror response drill at the city's main railway station in the early hours of Friday.

Police based at the station arrived on the scene of a hypothetical attack within 50 seconds, with anti-terror, SWAT, criminal investigation and traffic control units all turning up within 15 minutes. Photos on the police force's microblog showed officers wearing helmets and body armor and toting submachine guns and other weapons.

The official website for Xinjiang's regional government said police identified two suspects with a history of religious extremism, including a 39-year-old man from southern Xinjiang.

It did not explicitly call Wednesday's attack in the regional capital of Urumqi a suicide bombing, but said the two men detonated explosives at a train station exit and both died on the spot.

Chinese President Xi Jinping demanded "decisive" action against terrorism after the attack, which came at awkward time for him, just as he was wrapping up a four-day tour of Xinjiang aimed at underlining the government's commitment to security in the region. It was unclear if he was still in Xinjiang when the explosions took place.

Meanwhile, Beijing criticized a U.S. State Department report issued Wednesday that said China's counterterrorism cooperation with the U.S. "remained marginal, with little reciprocity in information exchanges.

"To make irresponsible remarks about other countries and enact a double standard is of no help to international cooperation in the fight against terrorism," spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website.

The blasts went off about 7 p.m. just after a train had pulled into the station and as passengers streamed out onto a plaza near a bus station.

Another survivor, a man who also gave only his surname, Liu, said the blast knocked many people to the ground.

"There was chaos. Everyone was panicking," Liu said. Police and firefighters quickly arrived and Liu said the injured were taken to hospitals in ambulances and commandeered taxis.