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Muslim Uighur Said to Be Behind Attack at Train Station


Society & Culture  (tags: China, Muslims, Islam, stabbings, crime, culture, death, murder, religion, rights, sadness, safety, society, violence, Terrorism, terrorists, Muslim Uighur )

Ge
- 133 days ago - online.wsj.com
At least 10 assailants armed with long knives and dressed in black stormed through a crowded train station Saturday night in the southwestern city of Kunming, slashing people at random, according to state media. Police shot and killed four assailants,



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Ge M. (216)
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 1:07 pm
BEIJING—A mass knife attack at a train station that left 33 dead over the weekend signaled Chinese authorities are facing a significant escalation of a long-simmering separatist movement.

Saturday's assault marked the second time in a little over four months that Chinese authorities say separatists from the Xinjiang region—which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and former Soviet Central Asia—have carried out a relatively complex and carefully planned attack outside their home territory.

At least 10 assailants armed with long knives and dressed in black stormed through a crowded train station Saturday night in the southwestern city of Kunming, slashing people at random, according to state media. Police shot and killed four assailants, arrested one, and were searching for five others, state media said. Thirty-three died, including the attackers, and at least 130 were injured.

It was the deadliest attack ever attributed to Xinjiang separatists outside their home territory and marks a departure in tactics.

Targets in the past have usually been police, paramilitary barracks and other symbols of Chinese government authority, and attacks have mainly been staged inside Xinjiang.

The scale and relative sophistication of the Kunming attack poses a test for President Xi Jinping and the new commission he established to improve coordination among security agencies, which often have conflicting agendas and compete for resources, according to Chinese security analysts.

"This attack in Kunming was not something that could have been planned in one or two months," said Li Wei, director of the Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"I think it would need more like six months," he said. "It's clear that separatist forces are trying to expand their activities in China and trying to create ethnic tensions."

The Kunming attack came even as security was heightened nationwide in preparation for the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

The congress, widely seen as the highlight of China's political calendar, was set to begin Wednesday in Beijing.

In a previous attack outside Xinjiang, authorities said three separatists set their vehicle ablaze in central Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing themselves and two tourists.

Before that, almost all of the violence attributed to Xinjiang separatists had been confined to Xinjiang, where some members of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic group have been resisting Chinese rule for decades.

The vast majority of the unrest has involved young Uighur men attacking police stations and other government sites, usually with knives or crude fire bombs, in seemingly uncoordinated or poorly planned attacks.

China has long blamed such violence on separatist groups with links to al Qaeda. Uighur activists overseas have denied that, blaming the violence instead on restrictions on religious practice and resentment over mass immigration of ethnic Han Chinese.

On Sunday, order had been mostly restored in Kunming. Security forces, some heavily armed, patrolled the train station, which reopened Sunday morning.

A makeshift memorial of candles was arranged in a heart shape around the numerals 3-01, for the March 1 date of the attack.

The attacks in Beijing and Kunming—although still relatively crude, without firearms or explosives—suggest that some separatists are becoming more radical and better-organized, according to Mr. Li and other Chinese experts on security and Xinjiang.

Reports that the attackers all wore black suggested that they were organized and trying to maximize psychological impact, said Mr. Li. The reported involvement of women in the Beijing and Kunming attacks also showed that separatist groups were no longer only recruiting men, he said.

Pan Zhiping, head of the Institute of Central Asia at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said Xinjiang separatists were imitating the tactics of Chechen militants who have been blamed for multiple attacks in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Other experts suggested that separatists were targeting areas outside Xinjiang because attacks within the region had little political impact and security measures were much weaker in other areas.

Most Chinese train stations have X-ray machines at entrances, but Zheng Liang, a professor at Xinjiang University, suggested the checks at Kunming station were insufficient. "How come the X-ray machines couldn't identify the choppers and knives?" he said.

In accounts in state media, witnesses described the assailants working their way through the ticketing hall, and chasing people who ran into shops and out onto the plaza outside the station.

One witness who had been at a hotel nearby said he saw men and two women dressed in black slashing and stabbing at people as they ran.

After police closed in, at first everybody hit the ground and then "everyone ran. There were knives everywhere and they began throwing them at people," he said.

"They have achieved their target—terrifying ordinary citizens and shocking the world," said Mr. Zheng, the professor. "By doing so I think they hope to obtain financial and other support from international terrorist organizations.

China has often accused Uighur groups in the U.S. and Europe of helping to organize violence inside China.

The World Uyghur Congress, an advocacy group which has offices in Germany and the U.S., denied any involvement in the Kunming attack and said there was no justification for attacks on civilians.

"China must be transparent in handling this matter and not let it become an excuse for repression, for seriously discriminatory and repressive policies that could lead to psychological trauma and possibly excite the victims to take extreme measures," said Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the group.

He linked the spread of violence beyond Xinjiang to the discrimination suffered by many Uighurs who had migrated to other parts of China in search of work in recent years.

Uighur activists say Chinese authorities have stepped up harassment and detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang and other areas since the Beijing attack. Last month, Xinjiang authorities formally arrested Ilham Tohti, a Uighur and dissident scholar, on charges of fomenting separatism. His lawyer denied the charges. Some security experts said the Chinese government needed to find new ways to approach the problem, other than pouring money into Xinjiang for economic development while stifling criticism of government policies.

Some said China needs to strengthen counterterrorism cooperation with other countries, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan given the imminent withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Others said Beijing needed to focus on protecting local customs and strengthening the rule of law.

President Xi, who became head of the new National Security Commission in January, responded to the Kunming attack by dispatching two of his top security officials to the city, and calling for the attackers to be brought to justice.

The only details made public so far are that the group is headed by Mr. Xi, with Premier Li Keqiang and parliament chief Zhang Dejiang as his deputies, and it reports to the party's Politburo—its top 25 leaders.

"One thing regarding the NSC is how to coordinate work among different bodies—the army, the intelligence agencies and the police," said Mr. Zheng of Xinjiang University. "Can they share information with each other?"
 

Sue Matheson (69)
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 2:00 pm
thanks
 

Allan Yorkowitz (452)
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 2:29 pm
It's so rare that you read about violence coming from the population. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
 

Stan B. (124)
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 3:14 pm
I wonder if they're involved in that plane hijack.
 

Ms Noting Commentator (21)
Wednesday March 19, 2014, 8:18 pm
‘"This attack in Kunming was not something that could have been planned in one or two months," said Li Wei …"I think it would need more like six months," he said. "It's clear that separatist forces are trying to expand their activities in China and trying to create ethnic tensions."
The Kunming attack came even as security was heightened nationwide in preparation for the annual meeting of the National People's Congress, China's legislature.’

Unfortunately, after their planning, the loss of lives and the number of injured, I am still missing the point of the attack. Obviously, I lack the ability for thinking like an Islamic terrorist.
 

Michael Kirkby (83)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 6:09 am
That was my first reaction but then I also kept an open mind and asked whether this was a false flag operation?
 

Birgit W. (140)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 2:07 pm
My heart goes out to their families. Thanks.
 

Carol Dreeszen (364)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 2:24 pm
Ms..I tend to agree with you! Who knows how far ahead, what, where, when and how, right now the planners of terrorism are planning to have happen worldwide at this moment!? This is a BIG organization making these plans and it's not something that can be whipped up in a day or two or even a month or two. They are extremely methodic in their actions!!
 

Sheri Schongold (6)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 5:50 pm
My sympathies to the families of the deceased. Until China learns that sitting on people the way they do only provokes attacks of this nature, they will occur and increase no matter how many are killed by the Chinese government. There will be bloodshed as long as this tyranny goes on.
 

marie tc (166)
Thursday March 20, 2014, 6:48 pm
Noted Thanks
 

Winn Adams (190)
Friday March 21, 2014, 11:32 am
Noted
 

Helen Porter (41)
Friday March 21, 2014, 8:17 pm
Sounds like it.
 

Mm M. (445)
Saturday March 22, 2014, 11:38 pm
TU Gillian, noted with wet ole eyes from seeing the horrors that take place in the World!
 
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