KUNMING, China — Authorities on Sunday blamed a slashing rampage that killed 29 people and wounded 143 at a train station in southern China on separatists from the country’s far west, while local residents said government crackdowns had taken their toll on the alleged culprits.
Police fatally shot four of the assailants and captured a suspect after the attack late Saturday in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, the official Xinhua News Agency said, adding that authorities were searching for at least five more suspects. State broadcaster CCTV said two of the suspects were women, including one of the slain and the one detained.
“All-out efforts should be made to treat the injured people, severely punish terrorists according to the law and prevent the occurrence of similar cases,” said China’s top police official, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu, who arrived early Sunday in Kunming.
The suspects’ identities have not been confirmed, but evidence at the scene showed that it was “a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces,” Xinhua said. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule by some members of the Muslim Uighur population. The government has responded there with heavy-handed security.
Police in Kunming on Sunday were rounding up members of the city’s small Uighur community, believed to number no more than several dozen, for questioning about the attack.
“How do we know them?” said a Uighur man who gave only his first name, Akpar. “We could not tell if the assailants were Uighurs, as they were all dressed in black. We did not like the attack either.”
Most attacks blamed on Uighur separatists take place in Xinjiang, where clashes between Uighurs and police or members of China’s ethnic Han majority are frequent, but Saturday’s assault happened more than 900 miles to the southeast in Yunnan, which has not had a history of such unrest.
Kunming residents expressed dismay at both the attack and the conditions within China that could have allowed it to happen.
Restaurant worker Xie Yulong said the attackers were “worse than animals.” But he also expressed sympathy toward ethnic Uighurs, saying their region has come under severe security crackdowns in recent months under the government of President Xi Jinping.
“Beijing has put too much pressure on them since Xi Jinping took over,” Xie said. “They are under so much pressure, they do not want to live, and they did that.”
Kunming resident Jiang Hua said the attack has made people scared to go out at night.
“We should chase off the Uighurs and let them be independent,” Jiang said. “And local authorities should be held accountable for providing public safety.”