Explosion at train station in China's restive Xinjiang

This picture from China’s Twitter-like Weibo service is among several pictures that show blood on suitcases and debris on the ground at the railway station in Urumqi, capital of China's restive far western region of Xinjiang. -- PHOTO: WE
This picture from China’s Twitter-like Weibo service is among several pictures that show blood on suitcases and debris on the ground at the railway station in Urumqi, capital of China's restive far western region of Xinjiang. -- PHOTO: WEIBO
The blast reportedly happened at around 7pm local time on Wednesday at the exit of the south railway station of Urumqi, Xinjiang.-- PHOTO: WEIBO
The blast reportedly happened at around 7pm local time on Wednesday at the exit of the south railway station of Urumqi, Xinjiang.-- PHOTO: WEIBO

BEIJING (REUTERS) - An explosion occurred at a railway station in Urumqi, capital of China's restive far western region of Xinjiang, state media said on Wednesday.

The blast happened at around 7pm local time on Wednesday at the exit of the south railway station of Urumqi, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The People’s Daily said on its official microblog that there were injuries.

Pictures on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed blood on suitcases and debris on the ground in front of the station. Another picture showed what appeared to be a small blast area near a police post, though it was unclear if there were any casualties in the photograph.

The situation is “well under control”, said a regional government spokesman Luo Fuyong The government was assessing casualty figures and investigating the cause of the blast, the spokesman added. 

The blast happened just as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a four-day visit to the region. 

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist militants and separatists.

Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is China’s heavy-handed policies, including curbs on Islam, as well as the culture and language of the Muslim Uighur people who call Xinjiang home.

China’s nervousness about Islamist militancy has grown since a car burst into flames on the edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October, and 29 people were stabbed to death last month in the south-western city of Kunming.

Unrest in Xinjiang has led to the deaths of more than 100 people in the past year, prompting a tougher stance against Uighurs, many of whom chafe at Chinese controls on their culture and religion.Uighurs, a Turkic-language speaking people, have traditionally followed a moderate form of Islam but many have begun adopting practices more commonly seen in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan, such as full-face veils for women, as China has intensified a security crackdown in recent years.