By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
BEIJING — Chinese police have identified a 39-year-old Uighur man they suspect to be one of the first Chinese suicide bombers and have put out a nationwide alert to identify a second man killed in an attack last week at a train station in Urumqi.
The attack took place on Wednesday night, the eve of the busy May Day holiday, and killed three people — including the two assailants — and left 79 injured.
It happened hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up a tour of the far northwestern Xinjiang region during which he called for a crackdown on terrorism.
China’s state-run Global Times on Monday named one of the bombers as Sedirdin Sawut and said he was from the Aksu, which is south of the regional capital of Urumqi. Local police took the unusual step of releasing photographs showing the faces of the two dead assailants, offering $15,500 for information about the suspected second bomber, who remains unidentified.
Chinese police also put out an alert for the arrest of 10 of Sawut’s family members, including his wife, father, father-in-law, brothers and cousins. The Global Times quoted an unnamed source saying officials believe that the attack was the work of a “crime family deeply influenced by extremist ideology.”
Although the death toll in the Urumqi bombing was small, the attack nevertheless sent tremors through China because it was one of the first cases involving suicide bombers of the type that have terrorized other parts of the world. Surveillance photos released over the weekend showed the two men strolling through the crowd of passengers carrying briefcases. They also attacked bystanders with knives.
“This is the first suicide bombing of this type in Urumqi,” said Yang Shu, head of the Central Asia Studies Institute in Lanzhou. Most other attacks have not involved explosives, only knives and gasoline, such as the car that plowed into pedestrians at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October.
“The number of attacks is increasing and the attackers are getting more professional in what they do,” Yang said.
In the largest such attack this year, 33 people were knifed to death at a train station in Kunming in March.
©afp.com / Mark Ralston