KUNMING ATTACK IN MARCH 2014
In March 2014, a horrific knife assault at a railway station in the city of Kunming in China's southern Yunnan province left 31 dead and 141 wounded. Eight black-clad assailants went on a rampage in front of the station, using large knives slash and hack to death anybody who crossed their path. Occurring more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) to the southeast of Xinjiang, the evening attack took place a few days before the opening of the National People's Congress—China's annual parliamentary session— where domestic security is expected to top the agenda. The attack was the deadliest violence attributed to Uyghur-related problems since riots in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi in 2009, which left nearly 200 people dead. The Kunming mass knifing by some reckonings was the biggest-ever violent incident against civilians in China (incidents in Xinjiang and Tibet involved clashes between ethnic groups).
Andrew Jacobs wrote in in the New York Times, The group of “attackers, dressed in black and wearing cloth masks, arrived in front of Kunming Railway Station in southwest China on Saturday night and began slashing at employees and commuters, sometimes repeatedly plunging their long knives and daggers into people too stunned or slow to flee. By the time the police shot dead four assailants and ended the slaughter, the square and ticket sales hall at the station were strewn with bodies and moaning survivors in pools of blood. According to the state news media, 29 people were killed and 143 wounded. The police captured one of the assailants but several others were said to be still at large. Witnesses said that at least one of the attackers was a woman.” Authorities had previously given the toll as 29, but the change indicated that two of the wounded had later died of their injuries. [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, March 2, 2014]
The entire attack at the railway station lasted for about 25 minutes. Xinhua reported that the attackers - eight in total - may have received training beforehand as they appeared to be expert at handling knives. Shortly after the attack, Didi Tang of Associated Press wrote: The “assailants slashed scores of people with knives at a train station in southern China, drawing police fire...Police fatally shot four of the assailants, arrested one and were searching for the others. Witnesses described attackers dressed in black storming the train station and attacking people indiscriminately. The attackers' identities were not yet confirmed, but evidence at the scene of the attack showed that it was "a terrorist attack carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces," Xinhua quoted the municipal government as saying. Authorities considered it to be "an organized, premeditated violent terrorist attack." [Source: Didi Tang, Associated Press, March 1, 2014 ^^]
“A Xinhua reporter in Kunming said firefighters and emergency medical personnel were at the station and rushing injured people to hospitals. More than 60 victims were taken to Kunming No. 1 People's Hospital, where at least a dozen bodies also could be seen, according to Xinhua reporters at the hospital. Xinhua said some victims were migrant workers who were returning to factories after family reunions over the Chinese New Year. Pictures on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, showed bodies covered in blood at the station. Footage on China's state broadcaster CCTV showed a heavy police presence near the station and plainclothes agents wrapping a long knife in a plastic bag as investigators collected evidence following the attacks.” ^^ The Observer reported: “ Unverified photographs circulating on social media appeared to show the blood-soaked bodies of victims lined up on the floor. Other images showed distraught people running away from the station and crowds gathering among police officers and ambulances. Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered a full-scale manhunt to find those responsible. "Severely punish in accordance with the law the violent terrorists and resolutely crack down on those who have been swollen with arrogance," he said, according to Xinhua. "Understand the serious and complex nation of combating terrorism. Go all out to maintain social stability." [Source: Barry Neild and agencies, The Observer, March 2, 2014]
According to Associated Press: “In an indication of how seriously authorities viewed the attack the country's top police official, Politburo member Meng Jianzhu, arrived in Kunming and went straight to the hospital to visit the wounded and their families, Xinhua reported. The violence in Kunming came at a sensitive time as political leaders in Beijing prepared for the opening of People’s Congress, where the government of President Xi Jinping delivered its first one-year work report. Xi called for "all-out efforts" to bring the culprits to justice. In a statement, the Security Management Bureau under the Ministry of Public Security said that police will "crack down the crimes in accordance with the law without any tolerance." ^^
Eyewitness Accounts of March Kunming Attack in March 2014
The BBC reported: “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." 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.[Source: BBC, March 3, 2014]
Student Qiao Yunao, 16, told Associated Press she was waiting to catch a train at the station when people starting crying out and running, and then saw a man slash another man's neck, drawing blood. "I was freaking out, and ran to a fast food store, and many people were running in there to take refuge," she said via Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblog. "I saw two attackers, both men, one with a watermelon knife and the other with a fruit knife. They were running and chopping whoever they could." At a guard pavilion in front of the train station, three victims were crying. One of them, Yang Ziqing, told Xinhua that they were waiting for a train to Shanghai when a knife-wielding man suddenly came at them. "My two town-fellows' husbands have been rushed to hospital, but I can't find my husband, and his phone went unanswered," Yang sobbed. [Source: Didi Tang, Associated Press, March 1, 2014]
Yang Haifei, who was wounded in the chest and back, told Xinhua he had been buying a train ticket when the attackers approached and he had tried to escape with the crowd. "I saw a person come straight at me with a long knife and I ran away with everyone," People who were slow to escape ended up severely injured, he said. "They just fell on the ground." Eyewitnesses were quoted by the China News Service, saying the attackers, dressed in black, "burst into the train station plaza and the ticket hall, stabbing whoever they saw". [Source: Barry Neild and agencies, The Observer, March 2, 2014]
According to The Observer: “Weibo users took to the social network to explain what happened, though many of those posts were quickly deleted by government censors, especially those that described the attackers, two of whom were identified by some as women. Others condemned the attack. "No matter who, for whatever reason, or of what race, chose somewhere so crowded as a train station, and made innocent people their target – they are evil and they should go to hell," wrote one user. The website of the state-run People's Daily newspaper said the gang struck at 9pm local time on Saturday, hacking into victims who it said were "passersby". It said the station had been cordoned off and more than 120 police, firefighters and security officers deployed to the scene. TV images showed police wrapping a long, sword-like knife in a plastic bag, amid the heavy security at the station.”
Shi Kexiang, who was slashed across the neck by a stranger armed with a sword and dressed in black. She's was still in a coma months later. Her brother Shi Xuefa, who was at the station at the time of the attack, told the bBC: "I'd just carried some of the luggage up to the waiting room and Kexiang was downstairs looking after the rest of the bags," he said. "I heard shouting and when I rushed back down, everyone who could get away had run. But there were bodies strewn across the floor and I found my sister lying in a pool of blood." For 15 minutes, Xuefa staunched Kexiang's neck wound with his fingers. When emergency services finally arrived, they were completely overwhelmed and piled the wounded and the dead into public buses to be rushed to hospital together. [Source: Carrie Gracie, BBC, July 16, 2014]
SWAT Team Leader Killed Five Kunming Terrorists in 15 Seconds
Keira Lu Huang wrote in the South China Morning Post, “The SWAT team leader sent to a Kunming train station as knife-wielding attackers hacked passengers to death said he shot five of the suspects in 15 seconds, preventing more bloodshed. After firing two warning shots, the officer shot a masked woman who lunged at him with a knife, before rapidly shooting another four of the attackers, the Legal Daily newspaper reported. [Source: Keira Lu Huang, South China Morning Post, March 5, 2014 ==]
“State television said the SWAT team arrived 10 minutes after the attack had started. Crowds were fleeing and the attackers were randomly stabbing and slashing at passengers at the station. The leader of the team - the only member with an automatic rifle - fired warning shots, but the attackers continued to advance, he said. ==
“Leading the pack running towards him was a woman assailant wearing a burqa-like black mask. When she was almost upon him the officer shot her. "The closest one to me was less than two meters [away]. If I hesitated for one more second, I would be dead now," he said. The other four assailants did not back down. "I didn't have time to think, I shot them as fast as I could," he said. "After I shot all five, the first one, also the nearest to me, stood up again and threw a knife at me. Luckily I tilted my head." ==
Reaction to Kunming Attack
The incident was quickly dubbed "China's 9/11" by the media, which just as quickly was told by state censors told to tone down the coverage for fear of provoking riots Uyghurs and Muslims. Andrew Jacobs wrote in in the New York Times, “Residents in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, said they were stunned that the city, best known as a warm, leafy tourist destination, could suffer such a spasm of bloodshed. “It happened too suddenly,” Du Zhenwu, a 48-year-old resident who lives near the train station, said in a telephone interview. “I don’t think anybody saw it coming.” According to the official Xinhua news service, President Xi Jinping deplored the attack and called for “an all-out effort to punish the terrorists.” [Source: Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, March 2, 2014 |::|]
“The rampage in Kunming transfixed the nation, with television broadcasts, websites and newspapers offering gruesome pictures and harrowing descriptions. On Sunday, China’s Communist Party leadership vowed to take tougher measures against the perpetrators of such violence. “This gang of terrorists was cruel without any humanity,” Meng Jianzhu, the party leader who oversees domestic policing and security, told Phoenix Television, a Hong Kong-based broadcaster. “They completely abandoned their conscience. We must strike hard against them according to the law.” |::|
“But experts said that if the official accounts were correct, the attack appeared to expose a serious security lapse and raises a troublesome question for President Xi: Why have the government’s increasingly tough policies so far failed to stanch the violence in Xinjiang, which has now spilled over into a distant province with no recent history of major ethnic unrest? “As a single incident, you can say that this is the most brutal, cruel incident we’ve seen from Xinjiang,” Rohan Gunaratna, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore who studies terrorism in Asia, including China, said in a telephone interview. Over several days in July 2009, at least 200 people, many from the Han majority, died in ethnic bloodshed in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang. In the days that followed the rioting, an unknown number of Uyghurs are said to have died in vigilante attacks. “Absolutely, it’s an intelligence failure,” Professor Gunaratna said of the Kunming attack. “But this is a natural progression of the developments in Xinjiang, because I would estimate that in the last 12 months there have been over 200 attacks there, maybe even more. It is getting worse.” |::|
“The attack is particularly alarming because it happened far from Xinjiang and, like a smaller attack in Beijing in October, could augur more attempts by alienated Uyghurs to strike beyond their home region, said Pan Zhiping, a professor at Xinjiang University who studies unrest in the region. In October, a group of Uyghurs drove a vehicle into a crowd near Tiananmen Square, in Beijing, killing two people and injuring 40. “The Tiananmen attack last year could be called a turning point, and together with this incident indicates that more terror activities could spread beyond Xinjiang, like violence spread out of Chechnya in Russia,” Professor Pan said. “There were intelligence problems here,” he added. “You can’t stamp out these incidents before they happen unless you have reliable informers.” But activists seeking greater Uyghur autonomy and international human rights groups have argued that China’s smothering controls and religious restrictions in the region are exacerbating, not defusing, the tensions underlying the violence. |::| “Dilxat Rexit, a spokesman based in Sweden for the World Uyghur Congress, which campaigns for self-determination for Uyghurs, said the attack in Beijing last year had prompted even more sweeping searches and detentions of Uyghurs, including in Kunming, which like many Chinese cities, has a small but visible community of traders and peddlers from Xinjiang. “We oppose any form of violence, and we also urge the Chinese government to ease systematic repression,” Mr. Rexit said. “If this incident was really the work of Uyghurs, then I can only say that it may be an extreme act by people who feel they cannot take it anymore.”|::|
“Hundreds of people lined up at blood donation centers across the city, and tales of tragedy and heroism were shared online. At one tiny restaurant to the west of the railway station, the owner reportedly shepherded 200 people to safety during the attack, according to China News Service. There were so many people inside, the report said, that people were standing on tables. As night fell, hundreds of people flocked to the station to light candles and lay out white chrysanthemums, a traditional symbol of mourning in China. “I just can’t imagine who would want to kill innocent people in such a cruel fashion,” said Yang Wei, a 50-year-old truck driver.As he spoke, a group of workers carried the belongings of victims to a police van. Among the items were backpacks, the overstuffed plastic duffle bags typically carried by migrant workers, and a child’s bicycle.” |::|
“Xinjiang Separatists” Blamed for Kunming Attack Captured
State media blamed the killings at Kunming on militants from Xinjiang. "Evidence at the crime scene showed that the Kunming railway station terrorist attack was carried out by Xinjiang separatist forces," Xinhua said. The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a Pakistan-based militant group, praised the Kunming attack in a web video, but did not claim responsibility.
Keira Lu Huang wrote in the South China Morning Post, “No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the authorities said separatist group flags were found at the scene. Rebiya Kadeer, the President of the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group, has urged Beijing to respond calmly to the attack in the country's southwest and not "demonise" Uyghur s. Yunnan's Communist Party chief, Qin Guangrong, said an arrested woman suspect had recovered consciousness and confessed to her crime, the People's Daily reported on its official Sina Weibo account. [Source: Keira Lu Huang, South China Morning Post, March 5, 2014]
A couple days after the Kunming attack, police said on had captured three suspects 10 hours after the attack and identified their alleged leader as Abdurehim Kurban (an Uyghur name). Other than Kurban, no one else's name was revealed, nor their ages, nor their hometowns. Authorities never specified whether Kurban was among those killed or detained. Citing sources close to the police, the Chinese magazine Caixin reported that three people suspected of providing support to the accused attackers were captured before the attack. See Execution of Kunming Attackers below.
The BBC reported: “The three remaining suspects involved in deadly mass knife attack in the of Kunming have been captured, state media report. Four attackers were shot dead by police at the scene, officials say. An injured female suspect was reportedly detained. 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. [Source: BBC, March 3, 2014]
Officials say that evidence, such as insignia and flags about "East Turkestan", points to the involvement of Uyghur 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". Members of the small Muslim Uyghur community in Kunming told Reuters they felt they were under a cloud of police suspicion. They said that dozens of Uyghurs in the Dashuyin district of the city had recently been rounded up for questioning. [Source: BBC, March 3, 2014]
Experts Skeptical of Kunming Link to Global Terror
Beijing has insisted that the root of the Uyghur problem is outside China and that militant Islam spread from Central Asia through social media that poison the minds of young Uyghurs in Xinjiang led to the attack in Kunming and is behind the Uyghur-related violence. . Didi Tang of Associated Press wrote: China says the attack in Kunming “was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants' homespun methods and low-tech weapons — nothing more than long knives — have led some analysts to suspect they didn't get outside help. [Source: Didi Tang, Associated Press, March 4, 2014 ^/^]
“Beijing uses its claim of an international conspiracy to defend its crackdown on Uyghur dissent, but there hasn't been substantial evidence to support ties to foreign Muslim extremists. "Historically, Uyghurs have had a difficult time getting traction and attention from the global jihadist movement," said Raffaello Pantucci, London-based senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute. "We've had a number of videos in which senior members of al-Qaida have highlighted the cause and said this is a group to support and help, but in practical terms we have seen very little actually happen." ^/^
“Although authorities have not explicitly mentioned the attackers' ethnicity, they have shown images of a black flag with a crescent moon said to have been found at the attack site. They cite the flags as evidence of involvement by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which the government says has ties to overseas supporters of Uyghur separatism. They also say the high number of victims — 143 people wounded in addition to the 29 killed — is evidence the attackers had training. ^/^
“Sean Roberts of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, who has studied Uyghurs in Central Asia and China, said the Kunming assailants' simple weaponry undermines claims of links to international terrorist groups, but said some Uyghurs may be growing more militant. "The ongoing development and further marginalization of the Uyghurs, and particularly the suppression of Uyghur dissent and constantly associating it with terrorism by the state, is likely to eventually lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy," Roberts said. ^/^
To China, even the attackers' clothes are a sign of foreign involvement. "The attackers chose to dress in black, and black is the color of the holy war in international terrorist activities," Chinese anti-terrorism expert Li Wei said, reflecting the government view. Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Kunming attackers are the "common enemy of the entire human race."
Pantucci said that if the latest attack is connected to Xinjiang separatists, it would fit into an escalation of violence in the region over the last year, including several slashing attacks. He said both the Kunming attack and those in Xinjiang have lacked sophistication but could have been motivated by terrorist literature and videos. "Even in some of the recent incidents that we have seen out in Xinjiang where they have tried to create explosive devices, we are talking very rudimentary devices that are essentially petrol bombs, gas canisters which they light up," Pantucci said.
Quiet After the Kunming Attack
Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “On the first Sunday of March,” immediately after the attack, “reporters leaped into action, gathering details from victims in their hospital beds. President Xi Jinping urged all-out efforts to investigate the slaughter. But by nightfall Monday, the state-run New China News Agency signaled that it was time to move on. "Kunming railway station serious violent terror case is successfully solved," its headline said. The public was left with just basic details, and since, there has been a deafening silence that has frustrated families of the victims. Analysts say China's approach reflects a mix of embarrassment, self-interest and legitimate counter-terrorism strategy. At the same time, activist groups that normally would challenge authorities have their own reasons for not pushing for fuller disclosure. [Source: Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2014 ^*^]
“No one is publicly questioning how and why the Kunming attackers organized the assault, why they chose that city, why authorities were unable to prevent it and why it took 10 minutes for an armed SWAT team officer to arrive on the scene and shoot five assailants. "Whom can we ask? No one will respond," said Yang Tao, a Beijing lawyer whose cousin, Wang Kaikai, was slain. "The government will control what's released, and there are a lot of things they don't want you to know." In contrast, families of the 153 Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared a week after the Kunming attack, have received wall-to-wall media coverage and official attention. ^*^
“Nevertheless, it's too simple to say that pure loss of face is why officials have hastened to cut off discussion, Gunaratna and other experts caution. "The reason people do things like [Kunming] is to make people feel scared, and overwhelming reporting will help them realize their goals," said Yang Shu, head of the Central Asia Studies Institute at Lanzhou University. Endless discussion about Kunming, others note, might stoke anti-Uyghur feelings among Chinese, fueling discrimination that could worsen relations. Others say authorities don't want to afford extremists an opportunity to discuss their motivations. "The Chinese don't want to have a situation like in the U.S., where terrorists can get on CNN, and the media gives militant groups a pulpit," said Jacob Zenn, a Eurasian affairs analyst at the Jamestown Foundation in Washington. On the other hand, he said, "I'm sure if some of these individual attackers' stories were aired, particularly the women, [some people] might be sympathetic, despite the crimes committed."^*^
“Moderate organizations such as the World Uyghur Congress see no gain from raising questions about the suspects or their circumstances. "In this way, though they have absolutely opposite goals, the [Chinese government] and the World Uyghur Congress here have common aims, which is: Let's not label all Uyghur people as terrorists," said Elizabeth Van Wie Davis, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines who has studied central Asian terrorist groups. ^*^
“The government paid families of the dead $50,000 in "humanitarian assistance." But authorities in Kunming strategically kept families in separate hotels, then quickly sent them home. That has made it difficult for them to organize and discuss any class-action-type legal suit, said Yang, the attorney. Zhao Dexiu, 44, a farmer from Hubei province, has spent six weeks beside her husband's hospital bed. Li Liangwu has had three operations. Zhao said she heard that the injured will be categorized in 10 tiers, and the worst off will receive $43,000. She and Li are unwilling to budge until they're paid. "What if he cannot work in the fields? Who will take care of us?" she said. Kunming authorities did not respond to a request for comment. ^*^
“Social media commentators also felt the chill. Li Chengpeng, an ex-sports journalist with a large online following, wrote a Weibo post implying that authorities should reveal more. "To quote a reporter from Kunming: 'They never tell you what happened. They just want you to hate blindly and be scared without specific reasons," he said. Beijing police quickly posted their own message, quoting Li's commentary and accusing him of being a rumormonger. "Police in Beijing seriously warn such public figures that they should be responsible for their comments," the message said. ^*^
“One of the few challenges to the official Kunming narrative came from the financial magazine Caixin, which published a story March 11 saying three of the suspects were arrested Feb. 27 — before the attacks. That raised questions about whether authorities could have prevented the rampage. The report said the group had tried to detonate an explosive in another town before going to Kunming, and that the female suspect shot dead at the station was the accused ringleader's wife. ^*^
Kunming After the Attack
On Kunming, four and half months after the attack, Carrie Gracie of the BBC wrote: “Beijing's answer has been more security: a mix of counter-terrorism training, armed police on the streets and heavy sentences for those who exchange extremist material online. At Kunming station, there's now airport-style security and a heavily-armed counter-terrorism force in dark camouflage conspicuously practicing their drills. [Source: Carrie Gracie, BBC, July 16, 2014 /]
Kunming's Uyghur community is believed to have numbered only several dozen to few hundred before the attack. Most of the Muslims in Kunming are Hui. “Friday prayers were once an occasion for all of Kunming's Muslims to gather at the mosque. Before the station killings that included hundreds of Uyghurs, now there are barely two dozen. And on the way out, police stop every one of them to check their papers. This daily diet of grim news from Xinjiang has reinforced their isolation and now Kunming's Uyghur residents hardly dare venture into public. At the Tianshan Muslim Restaurant, business has nose-dived. /
On the evening I visited, I was almost the only diner. Locals are staying away and the Uyghur tour parties who used to come from Xinjiang are now unable to leave the province. Police visit the restaurant regularly to ask questions and check residence permits. It was never easy for a Uyghur to find a job or rent a flat in Han Chinese cities, but the restaurant manager, Mamati, said it was now nearly impossible. "On the train or the bus, people move away from us. They're scared of us. But we're scared of them too," he said. "We can't go out alone any more. We only go in groups and even then, people curse us and tell us to go home or go back to Xinjiang. But I'm Chinese and I'm not a bad man." Mamati and his staff are Uyghurs but they are also Chinese citizens. They say they are not interested in Islamism or separatism. /
Three Kunming Attack Plotters Executed
In June 2014, China charged four people in connection with the attack at the railway station in Kunming in March."The Kunming Municipal People's Procuratorate found that the suspects were involved in organising, leading or taking part in the terrorist attack as well as intentional homicide," Xinhua said, citing the prosecutor."The crimes of the four defendants are clear and the evidence is abundant," the prosecutor said. [Source: Reuters, June 30, 2014]
In September 2014, three people were sentenced to death and one was given life in prison for their involvement in mass stabbing that killed 31 people in Kunming. AFP reported: “The convictions and sentences were handed down by the Intermediate People's Court in Kunming, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on a verified microblog. [Source: AFP, September 12, 2014 /^/]
“The suspects, whose names appear to identify them as members of the Uyghur minority, had been accused of crimes including "leading a terrorist group" which planned and carried out the attack, Kunming's Intermediate Court said earlier on its microblog. Four armed guards in helmets and dark clothing, and holding automatic weapons, were positioned inside the courtroom opposite the suspects, CCTV showed. The accused — three of them men with shaved heads, the other one a woman — wore prison clothes. Each of them had a separate dock, with two police officers sitting behind. /^/
“State prosecutors said three of the suspects — whose names were transliterated as Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad by the official news agency Xinhua — were arrested while attempting to cross China's border, according to the court. The other accused, [a woman] named as Patigul Tohti, took part in the attack, along with at least four other assailants whom police shot dead at the scene, prosecutors added. More than 300 members of the public were present in court, Xinhua said, including some victims and their relatives. /^/
In March 2015, three men men sentenced to death were executed in Kunming. The China Daily reported: “Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz and Hasayn Muhammad were executed upon approval by the Supreme People's Court, the Kunming Intermediate People's Court said. The three were convicted and sentenced to death in September 2014 after being found guilty of organizing and leading a terrorist organization as well as murder. Their death penalties were upheld by the Yunnan Higher People's Court a month later. The female assailant, Patigul Tohti, who was pregnant when arrested, has been sentenced to life. “Investigators found that the three men had been training recruits for terrorist activities, including the attack at the Kunming railway station, since December 2013. The three men were arrested when planning to illegally cross the Chinese border on February 27 in the Shadian township of Yunnan. Two days later, five members of the group carried out the attack.” [Source: China Daily, March 24, 2015]
February 27 was before the attack which took place on March 1. This implies that the attack could have been prevented if these suspects had been effectively interrogated and raises questions about how many people participated in the attack. Initially, reports said eight (some said 10) attackers took part in the train station attack, which makes sense considering that 31 people were killed and 143 were injured, and three reportedly escaped. When the arrests of three suspects was announced after the attack it was assumed that these suspects were the three that escaped. But since the three men who were arrested were captured before the attack, this implies that the three who escaped after the attack are still at large.
Text Sources: 1) "Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China", edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *\; 4) Chinatravel.com; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated July 2015