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China Starts Anti-Terror Campaign After Xinjiang Blasts

May 24 (Bloomberg) -- China has started a one-year campaign against terrorism in Xinjiang after a series of explosions on May 22 killed 39 people and injured 94 in the northwestern region, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Police said they had identified the five suspected attackers, four of whom died at the scene and one of whom they caught the night of May 22, China’s official news agency said separately yesterday. The five men, influenced by “religious extremism,” formed a terrorist gang at the end of 2013, Xinhua said.

Efforts against violent extremism are “long-term, complicated and difficult,” Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun said at the start of the campaign, according to Xinhua. The plan was formulated by China’s national anti-terrorism group and approved by the central government, the news agency said.

The government is seeking to head off further attacks amid concern that it’s unable to halt violence in Xinjiang, a majority Muslim autonomous region in northwestern China. The explosions May 22 followed a bombing last month at the train station in the capital Urumqi that killed three people and injured 79. President Xi Jinping pledged to punish the attackers severely and “spare no effort” to maintain stability.

The anti-terrorism campaign will “make full use of political and legal force,” including the army and armed police, focusing on religious-extremist groups, terrorist training camps and gun and explosive manufacturing sites, Xinhua reported yesterday.

‘Strict Control’

China will seek to exercise “strict control” of people involved in terrorism and extremism and seek to prevent violence from spreading domestically, Xinhua said. In March, knife-wielding assailants from Xinjiang killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a railway station in Kunming in Yunnan province in southwestern China, the agency said.

China’s government earlier yesterday said it had tightened security at kindergartens, parks and malls in Xinjiang.

Police patrols have been stepped up, and Urumqi has limited parking near schools, the government news portal Tianshan.net reported. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing told staff members to defer personal travel to the northwestern region, according to an e-mail alert.

No one has claimed responsibility for the May 22 blast. The Chinese authorities have in the past said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement was behind violent acts in Xinjiang. The movement was founded by a separatist belonging to the Uighur ethnic group, which makes up about 45 percent of the region’s population.

Suspects Identified

Xinhua yesterday identified the suspected attackers as Nurahmat Ablipiz, Memet Memtimin, Raghimjan Memet, Memtimin Mahmat and Ablet Abdukadir. It didn’t say which of the men had survived. The men had taken part in “illegal” religious activities, watched and listened to terrorist video and audio materials, it said.

The group made explosives and bought vehicles. Four men carried out the attack by driving two sport-utility vehicles through fences and plowing into an open-air market at 7:50 a.m. local time, detonating their bombs, Xinhua said, citing the Xinjiang government.

Xinjiang borders Pakistan, and China blamed an outbreak of violence in the Chinese region in 2011 on fighters trained at camps in Pakistan. The region had about 190 terrorist attacks in 2012, a “significant increase” from 2011, Xinhua said yesterday, citing the region’s public security department

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Joshua Fellman in New York at jfellman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net; Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net Michael Shepard

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