by NAOMI DOSHI Staff Writer
Terrorists in Urumqui, the capital of Xinjiang in western China, drove into a public market and set off explosives on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
The terrorists killed at least 39 people and injured 94. Most of the victims were elderly citizens.
There have been six major terrorist attacks since 2013, but this has been the worst.
Just one month before this incident, Urumqi suffered a terrorist attack at a train station. The day before the latest attack, Chinese courts announced that 39 people were arrested in the last two months for being involved in terroristic activities.
Through DNA testing, the police were able to identify five attackers, four of which died in the explosion. The last terrorist was arrested the night of the attack.
The same day, two flights to Urumqi landed after receiving a bomb threat.
The region is home to both Han Chinese and Uighurs. The Uighurs consist mostly of Muslims who speak Uighur, a Turkish language. Frustrated by the government, they argue that it favors Mandarin over their language, and it denies them the right to practice certain religious rituals.
The area of the attack is mostly populated by Han.
The government blames the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group, for this attack and recent ones.
“It is terrible that the attacks are because the Han and Uighurs are fighting. Terrorist attacks are already devastating when they come from an outside source, but there is probably a bigger chance of another attack when the terrorists are from the same region,” said freshman Pooja Sonikar.
In response to the attack, the government announced that it would begin a year-long effort against terrorist activities.
Airport and entry port security was increased to prevent weapons smuggling. Police have been given guns in many major Chinese cities, and the number of patrolling paramilitary police increased. Police were deployed to schools, neighborhoods, markets, and malls, and all liquids are being checked to make sure they are not gasoline.
Many people fear an attack on July 5, the fifth anniversary of the ethnic riots that killed almost 200 people.
Freshman Kaitlyn Guo said, “The government really needs to tighten security. The terrorists were able to attack twice in one month, and that shows that the government is not doing enough to stop them. They tightened airport security already, but I doubt that will be enough if the terrorists are from the same region they keep attacking. Their government needs to show that they are able to stop terrorist attacks before they happen.”
The United States has been accused of being silent during previous terrorist attacks in China, but acknowledged the latest one.
Jay Carney, White House press secretary said, “This is a despicable and outrageous act of violence against innocent civilians, and the United States resolutely opposes all forms of terrorism.”
Apart from generally condemning terrorists, Chinese President Xi and the police promised to fight the Uighur separatists specifically.
More than 200 suspects and 23 extremist and terrorist groups were arrested in May.
Two bomb factories have been closed in Hotan, an area in Xinjiang. The factories contained 1.8 tons of material needed to make explosives.
However, many people believe that the government’s forceful anti-terrorism approach will be ineffective, and that it will just cause more resentment among extremist and separatist groups. They say that the government is more adept at suppressing political problems rather than terroristic issues.
How effective do you think the government’s new security measures will be?