A photo from a Weibo user shows the immediate aftermath of an explosion at a market in eastern China.
Thirty-one people were killed, and more than 90 were injured in what the Chinese government is calling a terrorist attack in Urumqi, the capital of the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The attack happened at 7:50 a.m. local time when two black SUVs tore through fencing at an open-air market and plowed through a crowd as the assailants lobbed bombs out the windows. The two cars then exploded, officials say.
Numerous eyewitnesses said the cars were spray-painted with Uighur-language slogans and flying triangular flags. They also described scenes of carnage in the aftermath of the attack.
"I reacted quickly. One second before the car hit me, I jumped out of its path. I looked around and saw lots of people lying on the ground. Afterwards a second car came near me. It looked like a dark green Toyota with a triangle-shaped flag and lots of slogans sprayed on it," one witness wrote on Weibo, the Telegraph reports.
“The blasts were loud as anything,” Fang Zhaoying, 76, told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I went outside to look and saw people lying on the ground, before people told me to go back inside.”
"I heard an enormous sound, then I looked out from my balcony," a resident told CNN, saying he “could see there was chaos, with people injured.” The market was full of mainly elderly people shopping for vegetables in the morning, according to CNN's source.
"It's mainly people coming to trade vegetables, especially the elderly who get up early and buy vegetables to cook," he said.
China's Ministry of Public Security called the attack a “serious violent terrorist incident” and President Xi Jinping said the attackers would be severely punished. The wounded have reportedly been taken to local hospitals, and the case is under investigation, according to a statement from the public security bureau.
Hong Lei, spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, said the attack "should be condemned jointly by the Chinese people and the international community".
"The Chinese government has the confidence and the ability to combat the terrorists," Hong said, adding, "These terrorists are swollen with arrogance. Their schemes will not succeed."
#Xinjiang attack: Chinese President Xi pledged to severely punish terrorists & spare no efforts in maintaining stability— People's Daily,China (@PDChina) May 22, 2014
The attack comes nearly one month after three were killed and 79 wounded, in an attack on the city’s train station. And 29 people were killed in a mass knife attack on another train station in March. It's unclear who is behind the recent wave of attacks, though officials have in the past pointed to Islamic separatists, with the attackers often identified as a Muslim ethnic group called Uyghurs.
No group has stepped forward to claim credit for Thursday's attack.