China Offers Leniency to Suspects after Bombing

By Didi Tang & Louise Watt 26 May 2014

BEIJING — Authorities called on Sunday for anyone involved in terrorist activities in China’s restive northwest to turn themselves in and promised leniency following a bombing that killed dozens of people.

The announcement came on the heels of a security crackdown launched over the weekend in response to Thursday’s attack at a morning street market, which killed at least 43 people and wounded dozens.

The official Xinhua news agency said an anti-terrorism campaign in the northwest Xinjiang region would target religious extremist groups, underground gun workshops and “terrorist training camps,” and that “terrorists and extremists will be hunted down and punished.”

Police have revealed the names of five people blamed for the attack and said they were part of a “terrorist gang.” Based on their names, all the suspects appeared to be Uighurs, the region’s most populous Muslim minority. Police said that four of the assailants were killed in the bombing and that the fifth was captured Thursday night.

In Sunday’s announcement, public security officials in Xinjiang said people involved in a range of designated terrorist activities would receive mitigated punishments if they turn themselves in within 30 days, Xinhua reported.

The announcement also said those who surrender and offer information about other suspects or criminal activities “will be given minor punishment or exempted from punishment.”

The bombing in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital, left the region’s ethnic Chinese on edge and raised fears that organized extremism was on the rise.

Ismail Tiliwaldi, a former governor of Xinjiang, said in an editorial posted on a website sponsored by regional authorities that the attackers “vainly attempted to attract attention through a large-scale bloody incident and maliciously sow ethnic estrangement and cause hatred and opposition to achieve their criminal plot of separating the country,” according to Xinhua.

In far-off Beijing, police announced they were canceling vacations for officers and would step up patrols at train stations, schools, hospitals and markets. A measure under which passengers at stations in central Beijing are required to undergo security checks will be extended to three additional stations, the city government said.

Thursday’s violence was the deadliest single attack in Xinjiang’s recent history, and the latest of several that have targeted civilians, in contrast to a past pattern of targeting police and officials. It was the highest death toll since several days of rioting in Urumqi in 2009 between Uighurs and members of China’s dominant Han ethnic group left nearly 200 people dead.