3:08 pm - Saturday October 20, 2638

Blast rocks capital of China’s Xinjiang region

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Powerful explosions rocked a crowded open market in the provincial capital of China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang region on Thursday morning, leaving an unknown number of people killed and injured.

Authorities were working to establish the number of casualties, officials said an hour after the blast shattered a market at 7.50 a.m. local time (5.20 a.m. IST).

The official Xinhua news agency said two “cross-country vehicles” had been seen by witnesses driving through the market, as attackers threw out explosives from the car. At least one of the explosives exploded in the market.

Photographs posted on China’s Twitter-equivalent Sina Weibo showed a scene of devastation at the market: at least four people were shown lying injured as debris was scattered through the street.

Xinhua reported the market was located in downtown Urumqi, which is usually under tight security. Xinjiang’s capital was the site of ethnic riots in 2009 that left at least 197 people killed and more than a thousand injured as ethnic Uighurs clashed with majority Han Chinese.

Chinese officials say recent months have seen a surge in terror attacks, linked to Uighur separatist groups. More than 30 people have been killed and at least two hundred injured in knife attacks that struck railway stations in Urumqi, southwestern Kunming in Yunnan province and southern Guangzhou.

The attacks were thought to be carried out by Uighur Islamist groups. Only on Wednesday, a court in Urumqi sentenced 39 Uighurs on terror charges.

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