, BEIJING, China, Sep 22 – Two people were killed and “many” injured by multiple explosions in China’s Xinjiang, the local government said Monday.
The blasts struck at least three locations in Luntai County in the region’s south on Sunday, including a shopping area, the Xinjiang government’s Tianshan web portal said.
The report did not say what caused the explosions or give a precise number of injured.
Clashes between locals and security forces in Xinjiang – located in China’s far west and home to the mostly-Muslim Uighur minority – as well as attacks targeting civilians have killed more than 200 people in the past year.
Beijing blames the violence on “terrorist” groups seeking independence for the region, while rights groups say that cultural and religious oppression of Uighurs has fuelled resentment.
The attacks have grown in scale and sophistication over the last year and have spread outside the region.
Among the most shocking were a May assault on a market in the regional capital Urumqi, where more than 30 people were killed, and a deadly rampage by knife-wielding assailants at a train station at Kunming in China’s southwest in March, which left 29 dead.
China launched a crackdown in the region following the Urumqi attack, detaining hundreds of people described as suspected terrorists.
Earlier this month three people who appeared to be Uighur were sentenced to death and another to life in prison for the Kunming knife attack.
Authorities in Xinjiang tightly control religious gatherings and are carrying out a campaign against Islamic veils and beards.
“China’s policies have led people to resist fiercely in order to maintain their dignity,” Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress exile group said in a statement in response to the explosions.
Last week China put Ilham Tohti, a Uighur academic who was an outspoken critic of China’s policies in the region, on trial for separatism.
A court in Urumqi is due to deliver its verdict in the case on Tuesday, his lawyers said, in a move critics say could add to tensions.
The explosions came as China’s supreme court on Sunday distributed new regulations on prosecutions for terrorist cases.
“Making and showing banners and other material of religious extremism will be criminalised,” the state-run Xinhua news agency said in a summary of the regulations.
The court also said that the use of insults such as “religious traitor” and “heretic”, if serious, may lead to criminal conviction, it said.
Xinjiang, a resource-rich region which abuts Central Asia, is home to about 10 million Uighurs, who mostly follow Sunni Islam.
Many complain of economic inequality and discrimination.
Beijing regularly accuses what it says are exiled Uighur separatist groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Turkestan Islamic Party as being behind attacks.
But overseas experts doubt the strength of the groups and their links to global terrorism, with some arguing China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures in Xinjiang.