Soldiers with machine guns guarded the sidewalks and police yelled at residents who tried to leave their homes Sunday, hours after officers battled bomb-tossing assailants in the second daring attack in a week in China's restive Muslim territory.
The attackers launched a series of predawn bombings in the rugged Xinjiang region, far from the Beijing Olympics, despite tightened security for the games.
The violence, which police say killed 10 assailants and one security guard, came just days after a militant Islamic group linked to al-Qaida issued a new warning it would strike during the Olympics.
No group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack in Kuqa county, and police have not released any evidence that a terrorist organization was involved. But tensions in Xinjiang have been simmering for decades between the Muslim minority Uighur people and the Han Chinese who are about 90 percent of the nation's population.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Many Uighurs yearn for independence for Xinjiang, a sprawling region rich in minerals and oil. Critics say the millions of Han Chinese who have settled here in recent years are gradually squeezing the Turkic people out of their homeland.
But many Chinese believe the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gers) are backward and ungrateful for the economic development the Chinese have brought to the poor region, which borders eight Central Asian nations.
Sunday's bombings apparently targeted places dominated by Chinese, including a police station, government buildings, a bank and a shopping center in Kuqa – a base for oil and natural gas projects in the surrounding desert and mountains.
Police said officers killed eight of the attackers and two others blew themselves up. Two were arrested and three were at large, said the police, who declined to offer more information.
A more detailed account by the state-run Xinhua News Agency said there were 12 bombings. The attackers used bent pipes, gas canisters and liquid gas tanks to make their explosives, Xinhua said.