BEIJING: The bombing of a civilian market in Xinjiang represents a shift in tactics by militants towards more spectacular attacks, analysts say, to invite a disproportionate response by China and radicalise the Muslim Uighur homeland.
At least 31 people were killed and more than 90 wounded when assailants threw explosives and ploughed two off-road vehicles through a crowd in the regional capital Urumqi on Thursday.
The vast, resource-rich region, which was rocked by inter-ethnic riots that killed around 200 people in 2009, is regularly hit by violent flare-ups between Chinese authorities and the mainly Muslim Uighur minority.
But the latest incident was notable for its scale, technique and explicit targeting of civilians, experts said.
“In the past in Xinjiang, you had individuals targeting government officials and police,” said Michael Clarke, a professor at Griffith University in Brisbane who has authored a book on Beijing’s policy in the region.
“Now, it seems to have made the shift to a much more indiscriminate attack, the model of a classic terror attack.
“It’s a very large attack in the middle of the regional capital,” Clarke said, adding that it had “a different level of sophistication” to previous incidents and took place in a neighbourhood mostly populated by Han Chinese, the country’s ethnic majority.
Many of those killed and wounded were elderly residents doing their daily shopping. The White House called it a “horrific terrorist attack”, which Chinese state broadcaster CCTV seized on as the first time that Washington has used such a label for an incident within Xinjiang’s borders. — AFP