A wave of organised knife attacks by groups of armed assailants targeting railway stations has unnerved Chinese authorities, with six people on Tuesday left injured in the latest violence, in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou – the third such attack in two months.
At least one man armed with “long knives”, witnesses said, indiscriminately stabbed passengers at the square in front of Guangzhou railway station at 11.30 a.m. local time on Tuesday morning. Photographs taken by witnesses showed pools of blood at the scene and crowds of shocked bystanders.
There were conflicting reports on how many people were involved in the attack. Initially, State media reports quoted one witness, named Chen, as saying he saw three men armed with knives involved in the rampage.
The Guangzhou public security bureau, or police authority, said in a later statement only one man was involved in the attack. After stabbing at least six people, he was shot by police and later taken to a hospital for treatment. The police authority said his identity was still being established.
Four bystanders, including two women, who were injured were being treated at a nearby military hospital and did not have any life-threatening injuries, officials said.
As of Tuesday evening, officials released few details about the attack. The incident was strikingly similar to last week’s violence targeting a railway station in Urumqi, the provincial capital of the western Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, and the March 1 attack by armed assailants on the railway station in Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan province. At least three people were killed in Urumqi while 29 died in Kunming.
The two earlier attacks, the government said, had been carried out by terrorists linked with separatist groups in Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Turkic Uighurs, which has seen a spate of violent attacks in recent years.
Xinjiang officials said one of the Urumqi attackers, a 39-year-old Uighur named Sedirdin Sawut, had “long been involved in religious extremism”.
The Kunming attack, carried out by at least 8 Uighurs, armed with knives and seemingly trained, had been organised by a group of Uighurs who had earlier sought to travel overseas “for jihad”, officials said.
The Urumqi attack was seen by Chinese security experts as reflecting a stepped up capability – and intent – by groups as it took place on a day when China’s President Xi Jinping was touring Urumqi, despite the tight security in the city. Mr. Xi last week pledged “decisive actions” against terrorist groups to “resolutely suppress their rampant momentum”.