BEIJING – More than 10 knife-wielding attackers slashed people at a train station in a southwestern city in what authorities called a terrorist attack by ethnic separatists in western China, and police fatally shot four of the assailants, leaving 33 people dead and 130 others wounded, state media said.
The attackers, most of them dressed in black, stormed the Kunming train station in Yunnan province and started attacking people Saturday evening, according to witnesses.
Student Qiao Yunao was waiting to catch a train at the station when people starting crying and running, and then saw a man slash 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.”
One suspect was arrested, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Evidence found at the scene of the attack showed that it was “a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces,” the agency quoted the municipal government as saying.
The far western region of Xinjiang is home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule by separatists among parts of the Muslim Uighur population.
Most attacks blamed on Uighur separatists take place in Xinjiang, but Saturday’s assault took place more than 600 miles to the southeast in Yunnan, which has not had a history of such unrest. However, a suicide car attack blamed on Uighur separatists that killed five people at Beijing’s Tiananmen Gate in November raised alarms that militants may be aiming to strike at targets throughout the country.
In an indication of how seriously authorities viewed the attack – one of China’s deadliest in recent years – the country’s top police official, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu, arrived in Kunming today and went straight to the hospital to visit the wounded and their families, Xinhua reported.
The violence in Kunming came at a sensitive time as political leaders in Beijing prepared for Wednesday’s opening of the annual meeting of the nominal legislature where the government of President Xi Jinping will deliver its first one-year work report.
Xi called for “all-out efforts” to bring the culprits to justice.