Beijing, May 22 (EFE).- At least 31 people died and 94 were wounded on Thursday when two vehicles were driven into the crowd at a market in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi and then exploded in what authorities are calling a terrorist attack.
About 7:50 a.m., with the market full of shoppers, two SUVs without license plates smashed through protective barriers and drove directly into the crowd, with the drivers simultaneously throwing several explosive devices from the windows.
Afterwards, both vehicles blew up, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Although authorities have not provided the identities of the drivers and no group has claimed responsibility, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called it "a violent terrorist incident" and President Xi Jinping urged "severely punishing the terrorists."
In photographs circulated on the social networks can be seen bodies on the ground, people helping the injured, a dense column of smoke and various items and purchases strewn around the area.
"Before 8 (a.m.) I heard several powerful explosions. I approached to less than 100 meters (yards) from the scene and then I saw flames, very dense smoke, several burned vehicles and injured people. Many of the sellers abandoned their shops and fled in fear," one witness said on Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China.
The autonomous region of Xinjiang is one of the hotspots in China after decades of conflict between local Muslim Uighurs and the Chinese Han majority.
Some Uighur groups are demanding independence for the region under the name of Eastern Turkestan.
During the past five years, there have been about 400 victims linked to the conflict.
One of the most recent attacks occurred on April 30, when knife-wielding assailants killed three people and hurt 79 others at a train station in Urumqi.
Uighur groups abroad accuse Beijing of using terrorism as an excuse to repress their religion and culture and say that the increase in ethnic confrontations is due to the ongoing violation of the human rights of their people by Chinese authorities. EFE
Original headline: 31 Die in attack on crowded market in China
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