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Blame splits on deadly China slashings at train station

| Sunday, March 2, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

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 a fifth when the attack ended 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.

Two of the assailants were women, including one of the slain and the one detained. state broadcaster CCTV said.

“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 population, and the government has responded there with heavy-handed security.

Police in Kunming rounded 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.”

Kunming residents expressed dismay at he 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 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.”

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