At least three people were killed and 79 injured as knife-wielding attackers detonated bombs and assaulted travellers at the railway station of the capital city of China's far-western Xinjiang "autonomous region" on Wednesday evening, State media reported, hours after President Xi Jinping wrapped up a four-day visit to the troubled frontier province home to minority Uighur Muslims.
The blasts, reported at 7 pm local time (4.30 pm IST) at the Urumqi south railway station's exit, was powerful enough for people at a nearby hotel to report feeling "an earthquake", the official Xinhua news agency reported. The station is Xinjiang's largest.
As of Wednesday evening, at least three people were reported to have been killed and 79 injured by knife-wielding "mobs", Xinhua said.
The incident takes place less than two months after Uighur extremists carried out a similar knife attack on a railway station in southwestern Yunnan province, killing 29 and injuring more than 100.
Wednesday's explosion took place in Urumqi, Xinjiang's capital, on a day when the city was under more than the usual security presence: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday morning chaired a meeting with local officials, before wrapping up a five-day visit to the region.
During his visit, Mr. Xi pledged to crack down hard on terrorism as he toured a military base, and described the challenge to maintain stability as “grim and complicated”.
He visited a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) military area command in Kashgar, the old Silk Road town near China’s borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, describing the Kashgar region as “the frontline in anti-terrorism and maintaining social stability”.
Kashgar and Hotan – located further south near China's border with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) – have seen intermittent violence, from bombs in market places to knife attacks on restaurants.
Attacks three years ago that left at least 40 people killed were blamed by local officials on Uighur terror groups with links to outfits in Pakistan. Many Uighurs have, however, said Chinese policies have helped fuel ethnic tensions with increasing migration of majority Han Chinese.