The death toll from a series of explosions set off in Xinjiang this weekend has climbed to 50, Chinese media reported yesterday, adding that 40 assailants were killed in the attack.
This is a significant increase in casualties compared to initial reports from regional authorities who earlier said that the explosions in Luntai county on Sunday killed two people.
Associated Press elaborates:
The news portal Tianshan Net said bombs exploded at two police stations, a produce market and a store. It said the attack killed two police officers, two police assistants and six bystanders, and that 54 others were injured. It said police took swift action and 40 assailants were either shot dead or died in explosions.
Police captured two attackers, and an investigation found that Maimaiti Tuerxun, a man who was fatally shot, was responsible for the attack, the news portal said. The official Xinhua News Agency spelled the man’s name as Mamat Tursun. Names for people from the Uighur and other ethnic groups in China are sometimes transcribed differently in English.
Police said that Mamat Tursun had “been operating as an extremist” since 2003 and that he “called on other people to join his terrorist group when working on construction projects,” Xinhua said.
The attacks happened just days before the prominent Uyghur scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced to life in prison over charges of separatism. The EU, US, United Nations and numerous human rights groups have all called on the release of Ilham, who’s seen as a moderate voice. Critics believe that the conviction could further increase tensions in the restive Xinjiang region, while Chinese state media have applauded the turnout as a victory in China’s newly launched war on terror.
Sunday’s explosions are the most recent in a string of deadly attacks in Xinjiang. In May, nearly 40 people were killed and over 90 more injured in a series of bomb attacks at an open market in the regional capital Urumqi.
China blames ongoing unrest in the region on terrorists, separatists and extremists seeking independence, while rights groups say the violence is a response to discrimination and oppressive religious controls put in place by Beijing.