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Uighur Separatists Blamed For Knife Attack In China

Chinese officials are accusing a separatist group of a mass knife attack on a rail station that left at least 33 people dead and another 130 wounded.
Posted at 11:41 AM, Mar 02, 2014

Police in China are still looking for five people suspected of a mass stabbing at a train station that left at least 33 people dead. 

Late Saturday night, more than 10 knife-wielding attackers dressed in black slashed and stabbed scores of people at a train station in Kunming, the capital of China's Yunnan province. (Via BBC)

Chinese police shot dead four of the attackers, three men and one woman, and captured a fifth assailant, who they say was another woman. (Via Fox News)

Chinese officials are describing the rampage as an organized, premeditated act of terror — claiming evidence from the crime scene links the attack to separatists from the country's northwest Xinjiang region. (Via MSNBC)

In that region, a group known as Muslim Uighurs are at odds with the Chinese government.  

Uighurs are a Turkish ethnic minority originating from Central Asia. They're very different from China's Han majority, which represents about 92 percent of the country's total population. (Via Journeyman Pictures)

Time explains, like the Tibetan campaign, Uighurs are seeking autonomy from the Chinese government.

"Muslim Uighurs have ... agitated against what they say are decades of institutionalized repression, such as limits on worship and career opportunities."

And the resistance movement may be radicalizing. 

Last year, violent confrontations between Uighurs and Chinese security forces increased, with more than 100 hundred people killed. And in 2009, ethnic clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people. (Via Euronews)

The group has also been the target of blame by officials for a string of recent terrorist attacks, including one in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square last year.  

Chinese police say a Uighur man and his family drove a car into a crowd, killing five people. They say they found separatist flags inside the car, a fact Uighurs have called into question since the vehicle caught fire during the incident. (Via Voice of America)

According to The Guardian, Uighur separatist groups did claim responsibility for two bus bombings in Beijing ahead of the 2008 Olympics. However, Chinese officials strangely did not cite those incidents as acts of terrorism. 

A CNN correspondent says if the latest attack were actually carried out by the group, it would be significant because of the number of casualties and distance away from the Uighurs' stronghold. 

"It would indicate an escalation of the terror threat here in China for a country that is very well known for having a very severe security apparatus at times, and they were unable to stop the carnage here." (Via CNN)

The timing of the attack is notable, as China's annual parliament gathering begins Wednesday. Members say domestic security will be a top priority this year.