China

China attacks: Urumqi eyewitness accounts

Photo of Urumqi taken by Weibo user "Manga" Image copyright "Manga"
Image caption This photo shows smoke rising from the scene of the attack

Officials have said a "violent terrorist incident" in the Chinese city of Urumqi has left more than 30 people dead. Access for reporters to the restive Xinjiang region is difficult but eyewitness testimony has been emerging.

The BBC's Martin Yip has been in touch with one user of the Chinese social network site Weibo, who wishes to be identified as "Manga". Here is a transcript of their exchange:

"Manga": I didn't go downstairs because I was scared. There was only me [at home]. I was worried for my safety.

Martin Yip: You mentioned that you took pictures from your home. Can you tell me what have you seen or heard from the balcony?

"Manga": I heard the first two blasts, like a thunderstorm, and I thought it was one. Then there were another three to four explosions, and then smoke billowing, and everybody downstairs was running.

Martin Yip: How long did it take for the police to arrive? Did you hear any gunshots?

"Manga": Gunshots? Maybe, sporadic ones. But the ambulances arrived immediately (in around 10 minutes), then a police car came. More ambulances, fire trucks and police cars arrived within 30 minutes.

Image copyright "Manga"
Image caption Eyewitnesses said emergency services were on the scene within minutes

Fang Shaoying, the owner of a small supermarket near the scene of the attack, told the Associated Press news agency: "I heard four or five explosions. I was very scared. I saw three or four people lying on the ground."

Another eyewitness on Weibo quoted by the AFP agency said they were less than 100m away from the scene at the time and that "several powerful explosions" had taken place at the morning market in the front of the city's Palace of Culture.

"I saw flames and thick black smoke. The vehicles and the stalls were on fire while the salesmen fled in all directions, leaving their goods behind them," he went on.

Other local residents contacted by Reuters agency said they saw the aftermath of the blasts. "The air was full of the smell of gunpowder and the sound of sobbing," one said. "There were simply too many (casualties), old folks who were at the morning market," he added.

"There were two vehicles that drove like crazy towards the morning market," another said. "The market was total chaos. Hawkers and shoppers started running everywhere... it was definitely a terrorist act. I'm so angry."

Image copyright David Quartermain
Image caption Urumqi had seen a visible security presence in recent days but there was apparently little tension

The BBC has also spoken to a British man who works for an English-language training company in China, and who is a regular visitor to Urumqi. He was there earlier this week and described the area around where the attack took place as "very ethnically mixed, so the victims are likely to be both Han Chinese and Uighur".

He said: "Many elderly folk used the park, so the victims are likely to include many retirees.

"The timing of the incident is interesting - Uighurs typically use different time (rather than Beijing time), so an early morning attack may have seen fewer Uighur on the street."

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