At least six people were killed in a knife attack in China’s central Hunan province on Friday morning, barely two weeks after armed assailants slashed 29 people to death in south-western China.

Chinese authorities said the attack in Changsha, the provincial capital, erupted in a market following a dispute between businessmen.

But the parallels with the March 1 Kunming attack, which was described by Chinese officials as a terrorist assault, generated alarm across Chinese social media websites, with many residents of Changsha posting messages urging their neighbours to take precautionary measures.

Like the Kunming incident, the latest incident involved ethnic Uighurs, the Turkic group native to China’s western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region. But officials pointed out that the latest attack followed a business dispute, unlike the premeditated assault at Kunming railway station by masked assailants armed with knives, described by officials as members of a separatist group.

Hunan provincial authorities said the violence was triggered by a knife fight between businessmen Hebir Turdi and Memet Abla. Their names suggested they were both Uighurs.

After Abla was “hacked to death,” Turdi subsequently “stabbed four passersby as he ran away,” the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Turdi was then shot and killed by police, the report said. Two passersby died at the scene, while two others died in hospital.

Among those killed was a woman in her 80s who happened to walk out onto the street, a Hunan radio station was quoted as saying by AFP.

The station said one of the attackers ran a bakery.

Many Uighurs leave Xinjiang in search of employment in China’s big cities. Most find work selling Xinjiang’s distinctive naan bread or dried fruit cakes.

Many scholars say the migration of Uighurs to other cities has reflected the rising unemployment among youth in Xinjiang. Many rights groups have blamed increasing migration of Han Chinese as fuelling unemployment and rising unrest with frequent incidents reported in the region, particularly in the wake of riots in 2009 that left at least 197 people killed.

More In: World | International | News