SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese police have identified five suspects who carried out a suicide bombing in the deadliest attack in the country’s restive Xinjiang region in years, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The report said 39 people were killed from the bombing on Thursday morning at a vegetable market in Urumqi in far western China, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority.
Police have identified the suspects as Nurahmat Ablipiz, Memet Memtimin, Raghimjan Memet, Memtimin Mahmat and Ablet Abdukadir, Xinhua said late on Friday. They all appear to be Uighur, judging by their names.
The five, influenced by religious extremism, took part in illegal religious activities, watched and listened to terrorist violence video and audio materials, the report said citing the police.
Thursday’s bombing was the second suicide attack in the capital in just over three weeks. A bomb and knife attack at an Urumqi train station in April killed a bystander and wounded 79.
China has launched a one-year crackdown to hunt down and punish terrorists in Xinjiang to ”focus on terrorists and religious extremist groups, gun and explosive manufacturing dens and terrorist training camps, state media reported on Friday.
The government had already launched a campaign to strike hard against terrorism in Xinjiang, blaming Islamists and separatists for the worsening violence in the resource-rich western region bordering central Asia. At least 180 people have been killed in attacks across China over the past year.
Exiles and rights groups say the real cause of the unrest in Xinjiang is China’s heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam and the culture of Uighurs, Muslims who speak a Turkic language.
The Uighurs have long complained of official discrimination in favor of the Han people, China’s majority ethnic group.
The five suspects of Thursday’s bombing formed a five-member terrorist gang at the end of 2013 and made explosive devices and chose the target for their attack, Xinhua said.
The attackers ploughed two vehicles into an open market in Urumqi and hurled explosives. Many of the 94 wounded were elderly shoppers, according to witnesses.
Four of the suspects died in the bomb attack and the other was captured by police on Thursday night, according to Xinhua.
No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack.
Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Kim Coghill