May 22, 2014 -- Explosions at Market Today Latest in String of Attacks
Two SUVS rammed into shoppers and launched explosives at a public market in a rural Chinese province today, killing 31 people and injuring more than 90 others.
The attack occurred around 6 a.m. as elderly residents of China’s western city of Urumqi were making their way to the market. The vehicles came careening through the streets, hitting people as the occupants threw explosives out the window. At least one of the vehicles exploded.
It is the second such attack in a month and the latest in a string of escalating incidents this year, including a knife attack at a train station that left 33 dead in March. The Chinese government has said that Muslim Uighur separatists are responsible for the attack.
The northwest region is home to more than 10 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs, most of them Muslims. Beijing blames violence in the region on "separatist militants."
Uighur activists claim they are the victims of discriminatory policies and have been largely excluded from prospering during China’s rise, while they claim the Han Chinese moving into the area are treated far better.
Today's attack comes less than two weeks before the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprisings and is the latest in a string of increasingly sophisticated, deadly attacks targeting civilians. This is a shift from targeting police stations or government buildings.
Beijing quickly labeled the incident a "terrorist attack."
On Tuesday the Xinjiang government jailed 39 Uighurs for crimes including inciting ethnic hatred and organizing and leading terrorist activities.
China’s President Xi Jinping also made a swift statement, pledging to “severely punish terrorists and spare no efforts in maintaining stability.”
Increasingly Violent Attacks This Year
October 2013: Car crashes into China’s most politically charged landmark, Tiananmen Square. Five people died, including three inside the car and two passersby. Chinese police identified those inside as husband, wife, and the husband’s mother.
March 1 2014: Knife attack at the train station in Kunming targeting commuters that left 29 civilians dead. Four attackers were also killed and more than 140 people were injured. Chinese media label attack a "massacre."
April 30 2014: Knife and bomb attack at the train station in Xinjiang. Three killed, 79 wounded.
ABC News' Kaijing Xiao and Gloria Riviera contributed to this report.