• Reuters


An explosion at a railway station in Urumqi, the capital of China’s restive far western region of Xinjiang, on Wednesday injured some people, state media said.

The blast happened at Urumqi’s south railway station, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The People’s Daily said on its official microblog that some people had been injured and taken to hospital.

Neither of the media outlets said what caused the blast.

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.

Calls to the Xinjiang regional government seeking comment went unanswered.

“Police are evacuating people in surrounding areas,” Xinhua said. “Police have cordoned off all entrances to the square of the station. Armed police have been deployed in the square.”

The blast came just as President Xi Jinping was wrapping up a four-day visit to the region. It was not clear if he was still in Xinjiang at the time of the explosion.

“The long-term stability of Xinjiang is vital to the whole country’s reform, development and stability; to the country’s unity, ethnic harmony and national security; as well as to the great revival of the Chinese nation,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying earlier during his visit.

Xinjiang, a resource-rich and strategically located region 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 and 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 at a train station last month in the southwestern 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-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.

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