URUMQI, XINJIANG, WESTERN CHINA
— China says its security forces in the restive western region of Xinjiang have broken up 23 terrorist groups and arrested more than 200 following a deadly attack on a public market in Urumqi.
State run media reports Monday said the groups were targeted by police early Sunday in three areas of southern Xinjiang.
The announcement follows an attack that killed 43 and injured more than 90 last week. Officials say four of the five men responsible for the violence are dead and the fifth is in custody.
The incident was the latest in a series of violent attacks that are thought by many to be the work of Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic minority group that is native to Xinjiang.
Security forces block access to the market where Thursday's explosions occurred, Urumqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Armed police in the streets of Urumqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Armed police deployed at the international airport in Urumqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Armored vehicles patrol in Urumqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Following last week's explosions, police are stopping vehicles and questionning drivers in Urumuqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Armed police and armored cars in the streets of Urumqi, China, May 25, 2014. (Fred Wong/VOA)
Beijing has responded by announcing a one year nationwide security crackdown with a focus on Xinjiang.
The Ministry of Security says police across the country will pool information for the early identification of terrorist leaders and groups.
At the airport in Urumqi, it is apparent that security forces are already on high alert and troops can be seen throughout the city.
People in all the shops, hospitals, restaurants and even restrooms now need to go through package inspections. There are armed police carrying submachine guns with bayonets are patrolling at important roads and intersections and a new kind of armored car has been deployed in front of public places.
A local resident, who did not want to be named, said in a VOA interview that the attack last week killed Han and Uighur alike. “They are not targeting the Hans, but the government. They are not satisfied with the government," he said.
The attack on the market was the third major incident in China in recent months. Late last month, a bomb attack at Urumqi's train station left three people dead and 79 injured.
Uighurs often characterize Beijing's religious and cultural policies in the region as oppressive.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.