BEIJING (Reuters) - Police in China’s restive far western region of Xinjiang are looking for the family members of one of the men who died in an apparent suicide bombing at a train station last week, a state-run newspaper said on Monday.
The Chinese government has blamed religious extremists for carrying out a bomb and knife attack at a train station in Urumqi, regional capital of Xinjiang, on Wednesday evening that killed one bystander and wounded 79.
Both attackers were killed in the blast, according to the government. In an embarrassing security lapse, the attack happened just as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up his first visit to Xinjiang since becoming president last year.
The newspaper identified one of the attackers as Sedirdin Sawut, a 39-year-old man from Xayar county in Xinjiang’s Aksu region. The man is a member of the Muslim Uighur minority, judging by his name.
The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said police are now looking for Sawut’s wife, father, two cousins and his father-in-law, who seem to have gone missing after the attack.
They are all suspected of helping Sawut in the attack, the newspaper said, citing anonymous Xinjiang police officers.
Police are also looking for two other men who may have been involved in making the bombs, both of whom knew Sawut and also come from the same county, the report added.
Resource-rich and strategically located Xinjiang, on the borders of central Asia, has for years been beset by violence blamed by the Chinese government on Islamist militants and separatists, but suicide attacks have been extremely rare.
There have been suicide bombings before in China, mostly by people with personal grievances, but it has generally not been a tactic employed by Uighurs.
“Previously the attackers would try to leave after they planted the bomb. This time they obviously stayed to be killed,” the newspaper quoted another unnamed security official as saying.
In October, a car ploughed into tourists on the edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing the car’s three occupants and two bystanders, in what the government believed was a suicide attack by people from Xinjiang.
Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest in Xinjiang is China’s heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture and language of the Uighur people.
Unrest in Xinjiang has caused the deaths of more than 100 people in the past year, prompting a tougher stance against the Turkic-language speaking Uighurs, many of whom resent government controls on their culture and religion.
In March, 29 people were stabbed to death in the southwestern city of Kunming, far from Xinjiang and on the borders of Southeast Asia. The government blamed that attack on Xinjiang extremists.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry