URUMQI, China — Assailants in two SUVs plowed through shoppers while setting off explosives at a busy street market in China's volatile northwest region of Xinjiang on Thursday, killing 31 people and injuring more than 90, local officials said.
The attack in the city of Urumqi was the bloodiest in a series of violent incidents over recent months that Chinese authorities have blamed on radical separatists from the country's Muslim Uighur minority. The Xinjiang regional government said in a statement that the early morning attack was "a serious violent terrorist incident of a particularly vile nature."
The two vehicles crashed through barriers at 7:50 a.m. and drove right into the crowds while setting off explosives, the statement said.
The SUVs then crashed head-on and one of them exploded, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It quoted an eyewitness as saying there were up to a dozen blasts in all and that at one point one of the vehicles stopped because it was blocked by bodies and handcarts.
"I heard four or five explosions. I was very scared. I saw three or four people lying on the ground," Fang Shaoying, the owner of a small supermarket near the scene of the attack, said by phone.
Photos from the scene posted to popular Chinese social media site Weibo showed at least three people lying in a street with a large fire in the distance giving off huge plumes of smoke. Others, many of them elderly people who frequent the early-morning market, were sitting in the roadway in shock, with vegetables, boxes and stools strewn around them.