Military exercise in China's Urumqi after market attack

Military exercise in China's Urumqi after market attack
Fully armed Chinese paramilitary police patrol a street in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

URUMQI, China - China staged a huge military show of strength Friday, after leaders vowed to smash the "terrorists" responsible for the deaths of 31 people in the Muslim Uighur homeland of Xinjiang.

At least 1,000 personnel in military and police vehicles took to the streets in Urumqi, the capital of the volatile region, where authorities said assailants in two vehicles ploughed into shoppers and traders and threw explosives at a street market Thursday.

Washington condemned the "horrific terrorist attack" and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said there was "no justification for the killing of civilians".

Beijing described it as the latest "severe terrorist incident" to hit the far western region, home to China's mainly Muslim Uighur minority.

It was in a largely Han neighbourhood, but some of the traders and a few of the customers are Uighur.

President Xi Jinping pledged to "severely punish violent terrorists", and "crack down on them with a heavy fist".

Friday's military drill followed a similar exercise that was held in Urumqi last June after dual clashes branded as "terrorism" by Beijing killed at least 35 people in Xinjiang.

Many of the soldiers being transported through the city were shouting slogans, while other military personnel on armed vehicles were standing behind their weapons.

The police vehicles sounded their sirens as thousands of onlookers lined the streets taking photographs.

The state-run Global Times reported Friday that five attackers died at the scene of Thursday's attack, adding it was unclear whether they were included in the toll, and police were investigating whether more accomplices were at large.

The paper cited witnesses saying four vehicles were involved, and a witness also told AFP there were more than two, but authorities issued no confirmation.

One local shopkeeper, who refused to be named, told AFP she saw desperate shoppers fleeing from the vehicles.

"They ran onto the pavement, but many couldn't get away," she said.

"The terrorists were trying to kill as many as they could, and they came here because they knew it would be crowded." Police erected a knee-high barrier at times on Friday, but only one trader set up his stall on the street itself.

Flowers had been placed near trees along the road in memory of the victims.

Shoppers and pedestrians who took photographs of patrolling paramilitary police were told to delete them.

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