China has said that members of a religious extremist group were behind Wednesday night’s attack on a railway station in the western Xinjiang region that left at least 3 people killed and 79 injured.

Officials said on Thursday that two of those killed were assailants who had detonated explosive devices outside the railway station in Urumqi, the provincial capital, and then attacked bystanders with knives.

The Xinjiang provincial government identified one of the attackers who was killed as a local Uighur, Sedirin Sawut (39), from Aksu in southern Xinjiang. The Uighurs are an ethnic Turkic group native to Xinjiang.

Striking similarity

Sawut had “long been involved in religious extremism,” the government said, without providing any further details.

The attack bore a striking similarity to the March 1 terror attack on a railway station in south-western Yunnan province, where a Uighur group armed with knives killed 29 people and left more than 100 injured.

Xinjiang has also been grappling with ethnic tensions between Uighur and majority Han Chinese migrants, which spiralled into riots in 2009 that left at least 197 people killed in Urumqi.

Strike-first strategy

Wednesday’s attack was seen by analysts as especially significant as it came on a day when China’s President Xi Jinping addressed a meeting in Urumqi as he concluded a four-day trip to the region.

Mr. Xi said on Thursday the government would deploy a “strike-first strategy” against terrorist groups.

“The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness,” he said, “and decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists’ rampant momentum.”

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