A deadly terrorist attack took place at a railway station in the city of Kunming, in southwest China, leaving 29 people dead and 143 injured on Saturday. The victims were stabbed to death by assailants who were dressed in black and were wielding knives and machetes.
The armed aggression that shocked China seems to portray a new terrorist strategy that avoids the use of explosives and opts instead for commandos of knifed men to slash and stab hundreds of people in a brutal rampage of violence.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua said the police was able to gun down four of the attackers and arrest one, while the rest of them are still being sought.
Meanwhile the municipal government of Kunming said evidence in their possession shows that the attackers are most likely militants from the region of Xinjang.
Xinjang is an autonomous territory located in the northeastern corner of China that is home to several ethnic groups, among which the Muslim minority group of the Uighur and the ethnic Chinese Han.
The Uighur are known for harboring deep feelings of resentment toward the Chinese authorities in Beijing and wish to secede from China and create their own state called East Turkestan. However, the Chinese government normally responds with an iron fist to Uighur’s riots, as it has strong economic interests in maintain Xinjang under its control on account of the vast reserves of oil and natural gas that abound in the region.
In the past the Uighur group has been blamed for a number of attacks that were mostly perpetrated within Xinjang against members of the Chinese ethnic Hen. Yesterday’s deadly terrorist attack, however, confirms that the Uighurs militants might be changing their strategy and aim at spreading violence throughout China.
As a matter of fact, last October an incident near Tiananmen Square in Beijing claimed the lives of two tourists and the three Uighur who ploughed into them with their car. The Chinese authorities called the incident a terrorist suicide attack and attributed it to militants from Xingjang.
Saturday’s onslaught was the deadliest ever carried out by Uighur militants outside the borders of Xinjiang.
The bloodiest incident in the multiethnic territory occurred in 2009 in Urumqi, when a group of Uighur took to the streets of the city attacking and killing Han people randomly without sparing women and children. The massacre fostered retaliation from groups of Han vigilantes that few days later killed nearly 200 Uighurs.
A number of reports have pointed out that Saturday’s violence was not a random act, but a premeditated action that deliberately occurred few days before President Xi Jinping is due to deliver his report on the first year of government.
The day after the deadly terrorist attack that killed 29 people and left 143 injured, China is left to cope with the sobering reminder that Uighur separatism is an increasingly dangerous problem. While the Kunming attack was carried out with rudimentary weapons and does not seem to be connected to a wider terrorist network, it did prove to have a high killing potential that might soon strike again in other Chinese cities.
By Stefano Salustri