China Kunming knife attack: Three suspects captured

Relatives and friends of a victim killed in Saturday night's attack wait to see the victim's body outside a funeral home in Kunming As shocked relatives come to terms with the killings, Beijing is certain to argue that the scale and shocking brutality of this attack shows that the threat is real and serious

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The three remaining suspects involved in Saturday's deadly mass knife attack in the Chinese city of Kunming have been captured, state media report.

Eight attackers burst into the south-western city's railway station, stabbing people at random, leaving 29 dead and wounding more than 130.

Four attackers were shot dead by police at the scene, officials say. An injured female suspect was reportedly detained.

Officials have blamed separatists from the Xinjiang region for the attack.

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What must really worry China's leaders is that the violence from Xinjiang now appears to be spreading”

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Citing a statement from the Ministry of Public Security, Xinhua news agency said six men and two women, led by a person identified as Abdurehim Kurban, were responsible for the attack.

There were no details about how the suspects were identified and captured.

Officials say that evidence, such as insignia and flags about "East Turkestan", points to the involvement of Uighur separatists from Xinjiang - a region in the far west of China bordering Central Asia.

China's security chief, Meng Jianzhu, has vowed "all-out efforts" to "severely punish terrorists".

'Smell of blood'

Eyewitnesses described horrific scenes on Saturday, saying that in just 12 minutes attackers used curved swords and meat cleavers to stab people at random as they rampaged through the station.

A parking attendant at the scene, identified only by his surname, Chen, told Reuters news agency: "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."

Armed policemen patrol a street near Kunming Railway Station (3 March 2014) Kunming police and paramilitary forces patrolled an area near the railway station on Monday
Man, whose relative was killed in a knife attack, lies on the floor as he burns offerings at Kunming railway station in Kunming A memorial for the victims has been set up at Kunming station, and relatives of the victims have been burning offerings
China's President Xi Jinping (L), Premier Li Keqiang (R) and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Yu Zhengsheng pay silent tribute to victims killed in Saturday's knife attack at Kunming railway station Chinese leaders also paid silent tribute to the victims at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing
A worker wearing a mask helps the relative of a knife attack victim look through unclaimed luggage after the attack at the Kunming Railway Station in Kunming, Yunnan province, China 2 March 2014 Saturday's attack wounded at least 130, with terrified onlookers abandoning their luggage as they fled

Chen Yugui, a hostel worker who was at the station during the attack, told the Beijing Times he saw more than 10 bodies lying on the ground.

"The smell of blood was in the air, and there were lots of people crying," he said.

A memorial for the victims has been set up at Kunming station's concourse.

On Monday, security was tight, with a heavy police presence at Kunming station and surrounding areas.

Kunming is the capital of China's Yunnan province - and it is hundreds of miles away from Xinjiang.

Members of the small Muslim Uighur community in Kunming told Reuters they felt they were under a cloud of police suspicion.

They said that dozens of Uighurs in the Dashuyin district of the city had recently been rounded up for questioning.

Domestic security

Uighurs and Xinjiang

  • Uighurs are ethnically Turkic Muslims
  • They make up about 45% of the region's population; 40% are Han Chinese
  • China re-established control in 1949 after crushing short-lived state of East Turkestan
  • Since then, there was large-scale immigration of Han Chinese
  • Uighurs fear erosion of traditional culture

Recent months have seen several violent incidents in Xinjiang which the government has blamed on extremists.

Verifying these reports is difficult because foreign journalists' access to the region is tightly controlled.

China is often accused of exaggerating the threat of Islamist terrorism to justify its harsh security crackdown in Xinjiang and the restrictions it places on the religion and culture of the Uighurs.

Beijing is certain to argue that the scale and shocking brutality of this attack shows that the threat is real and serious, correspondents say.

The incident comes a few days before the opening of China's annual parliamentary session, the National People's Congress, where domestic security is expected to top the agenda.

Last October China blamed Xinjiang separatists when a car was driven into a crowd of people on the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square, leaving five dead.

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