By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
BEIJING — Men with knives slashed and injured at least six people at the main train station in Guangzhou on Tuesday, the third such attack in a Chinese station since March.
Guangzhou police said that six passengers were injured and that one of the four assailants was shot and killed by police.
Witnesses described the attackers as being dressed in white and wearing white caps, often worn by Muslims, but it was unclear if they were Uighurs, the Muslim minority implicated in the earlier train station attacks.
According to accounts in state media, the attack took place at 11:30 a.m. local time, with at least one attacker ambushing passengers who were emerging from a train from Kunming. The departure city was the location of a March 1 knifing attack in which 33 people were killed. Another attacker was stationed at the information board and yet another at the exit to the main square.
“We just came out of the station. We were taking pictures in the square of the train station and all of a sudden, two attackers came out with big knives like you use to cut watermelons,” a woman identified as Liu Yuying was quoted telling China News Service.
A shopkeeper told a Guangzhou newspaper that he’d seen a man sitting outside his store for hours, who suddenly pulled a long knife from his bag and began screaming as he tried to slash people at random. The shopkeeper said he saw the man stab a pedicab driver.
Among the six injured, a woman was said to be in critical condition, while others had wounds mainly to the arms and hands.
Although the toll wasn’t large, the attack in Guangzhou, one of China’s largest cities, with a population of 16 million, is likely to terrify people unnerved by the earlier string of attacks.
Last week, China experienced one of its first suicide bombings directed against civilians when two men with briefcases blew themselves up at the train station in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region that is home to the Uighur minority. The men, identified as Uighurs, also were armed with knives.
In the wake of the knifing attacks, Chinese beat officers have begun carrying guns in many large cities. Yangcheng Daily, a Guangzhou newspaper, reported that 4,000 special police armed with guns began patrolling on May 1. Many Chinese were critical of the police in Kunming for not responding more robustly to the March knifing attack.
©afp.com / Mark Ralston