Explosions have hit China’s volatile northwestern region of Xinjiang, leaving a yet unknown number of people dead and injured.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported explosions in the regional capital, Urumqi, after two off-road vehicles drove into an open air market on Thursday morning, hurling explosives.
“Witnesses said two cross-country vehicles driving from north to south ploughed into people in the market at 07:50 (local time). Explosives were thrown out of the vehicles,” the Xinhua report read.
Local sources said one of the cars later exploded in the attack.
An “unknown number of people were killed and injured,” Xinhua reported, adding that several people were rushed to hospitals after the incident. The local media also reported flames and heavy smoke at the scene, which was cordoned off by police officers.
China’s Xinjiang region, which is home to the mostly Muslim Uighurs minority group, has witnessed years of violence.
Last month, a bomb attack at a station in Urumqi killed three people and injured dozens more. Beijing blames the insecurity on what it calls a separatist movement there. But critics point to economic inequality and the cultural and religious repression of Uighurs as the causes of unrest.
Earlier this year, China’s English-language Global Times newspaper demanded ‘ethnic healing’ in the Xinjiang region, after the killing of over a dozen people during clashes between Chinese security forces and an armed mob.
The state-run newspaper also called on authorities to take necessary steps in Xinjiang, including recruiting more local police, in an effort to stop the violence in the region.