At least 50 people, including 40 "rioters", were killed in explosions in China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang Sunday. China’s state media initially reported that only two people were killed, until revised casualty figures were issued Thursday by Xinhua, a state-run news agency, Thursday.
Chinese police described the incident as a "serious terrorist attack". Authorities said that multiple explosions occurred in the region’s Luntai County, at two police stations, a produce market and a store, after which the assailants were either shot by the police or had blown themselves up, the Associated Press, or AP, reported, citing Tianshen Net, the region’s state-run news portal. Officials said that the main suspect behind the attack was shot dead.
Mamat Tursun, the primary suspect behind the attack, had been operating as an extremist since 2003 and had got others to join his cause of fighting against Beijing while working on construction projects, Xinhua reported. Two rioters had been captured by the police, following the attack, while nearly 54 people were injured.
The Xinjiang region is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, and in the past eighteen months more than 300 people have been killed in the region. The community blames Beijing for religious persecution and has been protesting against the country’s restrictions on their religious life.
The Uighur community also faces tensions with the Han Chinese community, who the Uighurs accuse of eroding the region’s ethnic culture, BBC reported.
On Tuesday, a court in the country had given a life sentence to Ilham Tohti, a Uighur scholar who had tried to promote dialogue between the Chinese officials and the Uighurs, AP reported. The move was widely criticized by the international community.