China blames Xinjiang railway station attack on foreign Islamic group

Armed policemen patrol near the exit of the South Railway Station, where three people were killed and 79 wounded in Wednesday's bomb and knife attack, in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, May 2, 2014. Chinese authorities blamed an April
Armed policemen patrol near the exit of the South Railway Station, where three people were killed and 79 wounded in Wednesday's bomb and knife attack, in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region, May 2, 2014. Chinese authorities blamed an April railway attack in Xinjiang on an overseas Islamic extremist group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, state media said Sunday, reinforcing Beijing's claims that foreign militants are provoking domestic unrest. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese authorities blamed an April railway attack in Xinjiang on an overseas Islamic extremist group, state media said Sunday, reinforcing Beijing's claims that foreign militants are provoking domestic unrest.

The far-west Xinjiang region, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority, has seen periodic violence.

Beijing says it faces an increase in terrorism from a violent separatist movement there, driven by religious extremism and foreign groups.

But critics accuse it of exaggerating that threat to justify hard-line measures, and instead point to cultural and religious repression and resentment that economic development has mostly benefited an influx of ethnic Han.

On April 30, the final day of a visit by President Xi Jinping to the region, assailants armed with knives and explosives carried out an attack at a railway station in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi, killing one person and wounding 79.

"Notorious terrorist group the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement was behind the fatal attack," the official news agency Xinhua reported, citing police. It did not immediately provide further details.

Two of the alleged attackers were killed during the incident, while the state-run Global Times daily reported earlier that seven others were arrested last week over the incident.

The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a militant Islamist group, released a video online showing the construction of a briefcase bomb allegedly used in the attack, the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist organisations, said last Tuesday.

But in response to that, several analysts said they doubted whether the TIP had the capability to launch such attacks, suggesting that it could be looking to raise its profile.

In recent months violence attributed to people from Xinjiang has spread beyond that region.

In March attackers went on a stabbing spree at a railway station in the southwestern city of Kunming, leaving 29 people dead and 143 injured in an incident dubbed "China's 9/11" by state media.

In another high-profile incident in October last year, three family members from Xinjiang crashed their car into tourists at Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, killing two before setting the vehicle on fire and dying.

In 2009 ethnic riots erupted in Urumqi between Uighurs and the country's majority Han Chinese, leaving 200 people dead and prompting a security crackdown.