Beijing on highest security alert after Urumqi suicide blast

Police, armed forces and SWAT teams now patrol the city round the clock

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 1:28pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 May, 2014, 5:08pm

The authorities have stepped up security measures in the capital after Wednesday’s deadly blast at the South Urumqi train station.

Beijing carried out an anti-terrorist drill at the Beijing Railway Station late on Thursday night. The municipal public security bureau set up a command centre at the station, counting the reaction time in seconds.

The drill started at 11.50pm. Police from the branch near the station arrived in 50 seconds, and all relevant police forces were assembled in 15 minutes. The commander inspected the teams afterwards, and the drill ended at 12.25am.

The public security bureau said they did not inform anyone in advance about the drill in order to accurately assess the forces’ actual capability.

On the first day of the Labour Day holiday, the Beijing Youth Daily reported that armed police had joined local police in patrolling both Beijing Railway Station and Beijing West Railway Station.

People picking up and dropping off passengers had to register to enter the station with a voucher card each, the paper reported. The two stations together issued 2,400 cards yesterday.

State media reported that this time, the Beijing government and its municipal public security bureau had launched the highest level of security control.

Its armed patrol now operates round the clock, focusing on the city’s central and popular areas as well as transportation hubs.

Traffic police and special weapons and tactics teams are also involved. To deter attack attempts, SWAT teams have been assigned to hundreds of thousands of checkpoints in popular areas throughout the capital.

The sight of the security forces armed with machine guns in shopping areas, train stations and tourist attractions has surprised many residents, the Beijing Times reported

In Guangzhou, 10,000 police officers would take part in regular patrols, China News Service reported. On Thursday alone, 3,000 policemen patrolled the streets, flanked by armoured vehicles. In Jiangsu, 3,000 officers were also deployed to regular patrols.

On Wednesday, two assailants carried out a suicide attack at Urumqi’s main railway station, leaving one dead and 79 injured.

President Xi Jinping urged “decisive actions” against terrorist attacks in Xinjiang after the incident, which took place just hours after Xi wrapped up his visit to the region. The attack was seen as an act to challenge the central authorities.

On March 1, a gang of knife-wielding attackers rampaged through Kunming railway station in Yunnan province, killing dozens of commuters. On October 28, five people were killed and 38 injured when an SUV rammed through barricades in front of Tiananmen Square’s gate tower in Beijing and burst into flames.

Officials have attributed both attacks to Xinjiang separatists.