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China vows to 'severely punish terrorists' after deadly market attack

China vows to 'severely punish terrorists' after deadly market attack
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Chinese state media says at least 31 people were killed and over 90 others injured in the troubled Xinjiang region when explosives were hurled from two vehicles as they ploughed into early-morning shoppers.

The deadliest act of violence in years in the region happened in its capital Urumqi.

The cross-country vehicles rammed into shoppers in an open market, Xinhua news agency said, citing witness reports. Explosives were flung out of the windows, and one of the vehicles exploded.

One witness told Reuters he saw the aftermath of the blasts on his way to work. “The air was full of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of sobbing,” he said. “There were simply too many (casualties), old folks who were at the morning market.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said police would tighten security at possible targets and vowed to “severely punish terrorists”, Xinhua reported.

Beijing has blamed a series of knife and bomb attacks in recent months on separatist militants from Xinjiang, the traditional home of the ethnic Muslim Uighurs.

It called Thursday’s attack a “serious violent terrorist incident”.

In recent weeks China has intensified a crackdown on Uighurs in the region, jailing dozens for spreading extremist propaganda and manufacturing arms, among other charges.

Rights activists and exile groups say heavy-handed policies in the region have sown the seeds of unrest.