Kunming Train Station. Photo courtesy of: AP and The Express – UK
CHINA has blamed militants from a predominantly Muslim region of the country for a mass knife attack in which at least 29 people died and more than 130 were injured.
The attackers targeted commuters at a train station in the south-west city of Kunming yesterday evening at around 9:20.pm local time (1:20pm GMT).
Witnesses told how the carnage unfolded as the group, who were dressed mostly in black, began stabbing and hacking at people at random.
Yang Haifei, who was buying a ticket when he saw the group rush in, said: “I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone.”
He added that the attackers caught those who were slower, saying: “They just fell on the ground.”
A parking attendant, who also witnessed the attack, said: “I saw five or six of them.
“They all had knives and they were stabbing people madly over by the first and second ticket offices.”
Police claim four of the attackers were shot dead and one has been detained.
It is believed around five are still on the run.
China today claimed the “organised, premeditated violent terrorist attack” was carried out by militants from Xinjiang – a heavily Muslim region in the west of the country which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
State news agency Xinhua said: “Evidence at the crime scene showed that the Kunming Railway Station terrorist attack was carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces.”
Graphic pictures on the Twitter-like microblogging service Sina Weibo showed bodies covered in blood lying on the ground at the station.
Details of what happened were also posted on the site, although many were quickly deleted by government censors, including ones claiming some of the attackers had been women.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered that no effort be spared to track down those behind the attack.
He said: “Severely punish in accordance with the law the violent terrorists and resolutely crack down on those who have been swollen with arrogance”.
The far western region of Xinjiang is home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule by some members of the Muslim Uighur population, who resent Chinese restrictions on their culture and religion.
Unrest in Xinjiang has killed more than 100 people in the past year, prompting authorities to toughen their stance.
It is the first time people from the region have been blamed for carrying out such a large-scale attack so far from their homeland, and follows an incident in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in October in which a car ploughed into tourists killing the three people in the vehicle and two bystanders.
The attack comes at a sensitive time as China gears up for the annual meeting of parliament, which opens in Beijing on Wednesday and is normally accompanied by a tightening of security across the country.