Separatists blamed for China knife attack; 33 dead
KUNMING, China — Authorities on Sunday blamed a slashing rampage that killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a train station in southern China on separatists from the country's far west, while local residents said government crackdowns had taken their toll on the alleged culprits.
Police fatally shot four of the assailants — putting the overall death toll at 33 — and captured another after the attack late Saturday in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said. But authorities were searching for at least five more of the black-clad attackers.
State broadcaster CCTV said two of the assailants were women, including one of the slain and the one detained.
“All-out efforts should be made to treat the injured people, severely punish terrorists according to the law, and prevent the occurrence of similar cases,” said China's top police official, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu, who arrived in Kunming early Sunday, an indication of how seriously authorities viewed the attack.
The attackers' identities have not been confirmed, but evidence at the scene showed that it was “a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces,” Xinhua said. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule by some members of the Muslim Uighur (pronounced WEE'-gur) population, and the government has responded there with heavy-handed security.
Police in Kunming on Sunday were rounding up members of the city's small Uighur community, believed to number no more than several dozen, for questioning in the attack and information about the assailants.
“How do we know them?” said a Uighur man who gave only his first name, Akpar. “We could not tell if the assailants were Uighurs as they were all dressed in black. We did not like the attack either.”
Most attacks blamed on Uighur separatists take place in Xinjiang, where clashes between Uighurs and police or members of China's ethnic Han majority are frequent, but Saturday's assault happened more than 1,500 kilometers (more than 900 miles) to the southeast in Yunnan, which has not had a history of such unrest.
Kunming residents expressed dismay at both the attack and the conditions within China that could have allowed it to happen.
Restaurant worker Xie Yulong said the attackers were “worse than animals.” But he also expressed sympathy toward ethnic Uighurs, saying their region has come under severe security crackdowns in recent months under the government of President Xi Jinping.
“It's the pressure,” Xie said. “Beijing has put too much pressure on them since Xi Jinping took over. They are under so much pressure they do not want to live, and they did that.”
Another Kunming resident, Jiang Hua, said the attack has made people scared to go out at night.
“I think we should chase off the Uighurs and let them be independent,” Jiang said. “And local authorities should be held accountable for providing public safety.”
Witnesses described assailants dressed in black storming the train station late Saturday evening and slashing people indiscriminately with large knives and machetes.
Student Qiao Yunao, 16, was waiting to catch a train at the station when people started crying out and running, and then saw a man cut another man's neck, drawing blood.
“I was freaking out, and ran to a fast food store, and many people were running in there to take refuge,” she told The Associated Press via Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog. “I saw two attackers, both men, one with a watermelon knife and the other with a fruit knife. They were running and chopping whoever they could.”
Alarms over a possible spread of militant attacks to soft targets beyond the borders of Xinjiang were first raised in October when a suicide car attack blamed on three ethnic Uighurs killed five people, including the attackers, at Beijing's Tiananmen Gate.
Sean Roberts, a cultural anthropologist at George Washington University who has studied Uighurs and China for two decades, said the Kunming violence would be a new kind of attack for ethnic Uighurs - premeditated, well-organized and outside Xinjiang - but still rudimentary in weaponry.
“If it is true that it was carried out by Uighurs, it's much different than anything we've seen to date,” Roberts said by phone.
But he added that it is still unclear whether there is any organized Uighur militant group, and that attacks so far do not appear linked to any “global terrorist network, because we're not seeing things like sophisticated explosives or essentially sophisticated tactics.”
The violence in Kunming came at a sensitive time, with political leaders in Beijing preparing for Wednesday's opening of the annual legislature, where Xi's government will deliver its first one-year work report.
Willy Lam, a political observer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the attack coming so close to the National People's Congress dented Xi's message of a “Chinese Dream” coalescing under his rule.
“Pockets of dissatisfaction, groups of people with grievances, appear to be increasing. After 1 1⁄2 years of more heavy-handed control (in Xinjiang), the report card does not look good,” Lam said.
Xi called for “all-out efforts” to bring the culprits to justice. The Security Management Bureau, which is under the Ministry of Public Security, said in a statement that police would “crack down on the crimes in accordance with the law without any tolerance.”
The attack was the deadliest violence attributed to Uighur-Han conflicts since riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in 2009, in which Uighurs stormed the streets of the city, targeting Han people in seemingly random violence that included the killing of women and children. A few days later, Han vigilante mobs armed with sticks and bats attacked Uighurs in the same city. Nearly 200 people died.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Cancer didn’t stop mother from living for her son
- Steelers cornerback Taylor ready to swap earpiece for helmet
- No. 15 San Diego State hammers Pitt, 74-57
- Steelers’ lookahead: New Orleans Saints
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Ehrhoff finding his way with Penguins
- Yesteryear journey follows familiar path to many newsmakers
- Hospital leaders brighten holidays for kids
- Penguins notebook: Bennett status remains fluid
- Ferguson protesters march on Pittsburgh streets
- U.S. Steel Tower tenants stand to benefit from company’s relocation