A group of knife-wielding men attacked a train station in southwestern China on Saturday, leaving at least 27 people dead and another 109 injured, the official Xinhua News Agency said, making it one of the deadliest attacks in China in recent years.
The attackers, most of them dressed in black, stormed the Kunming train station in Yunnan province and started attacking people in the late evening, witness Yang Haifei told the official Xinhua News Agency from a hospital where he was being treated for chest and back wounds.
“I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone,” he told Xinhua, adding that people who were slower ended up severely injured. “They just fell on the ground,” Yang said.
More than 60 victims of Saturday’s attack were taken to Kunming No. 1 People’s Hospital, where at least a dozen bodies also could be seen, according to Xinhua reporters at the hospital, says NY Daily News.
Graphic photographs surfacing on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, showed a row of bloody bodies on the station concourse and at the Kunming No 1 hospital. Other users of the network suggested that the pictures should be taken down, for fear of encouraging copycat killings.
“No matter who, for whatever reason, or of what race, chose somewhere so crowded as a train station, and made innocent people their target – they are evil and they should go to hell,” wrote one user.
Police shot four of the attackers dead and captured one, state news agency Xinhua reported. It quoted the Kunming city government as saying evidence at the crime scene showed the attack was carried out by “Xinjiang separatist forces”. About five others were on the run, it said, after one of the worst attacks of its kind in China in recent memory, reports The Telegraph.
Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered no effort be spared to track down those behind the attack, however, here was no immediate word on who was responsible.
“Severely punish in accordance with the law the violent terrorists and resolutely crack down on those who have been swollen with arrogance,” Xinhua quoted him as saying. “Understand the serious and complex nation of combating terrorism,” Xi said. “Go all out to maintain social stability.”
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.
It also marked a major escalation in the simmering unrest that had centred on Xinjiang, a heavily Muslim region in China’s far west strategically located on the borders of Central Asia.
“The tensions in the region are clearly high,” Henryk Szadziewski, a senior researcher with the Uyghur Human Rights Project, wrote in an email Sunday. “The government appears to be toning down rhetoric regarding development as a solution to the region’s problems and emphasizing policies focused on security as a means of stabilization.”