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3 militants arrested for executing 'China's 9/11'

Last updated on: March 03, 2014 21:12 IST

In a major breakthrough in China's worst terrorist attack at the Kunming railway station, police on Monday captured three militants from the restive Xinjiang province who fled the scene of slashing rampage that killed 33 people and injured 143 others.

"The terrorist gang of eight members led by Abdurehim Kurban was responsible for the attack," Ministry of Public Security said in a statement after three militants were captured following a massive manhunt.

Police had shot and killed four assailants during the mass knife-attack in Kunming, the capital of southwestern Yunnan province, on Saturday night. They had also captured an injured woman suspect.

The woman suspect reportedly gave away the details of the entire gang, which hailed from northwestern Xinjiang province, where the local native Muslim Uyghurs were tensed with increasing settlements of majority Han Chinese from mainland China.

Two women were reportedly involved in the stabbing spree during which they hacked people indiscriminately with knives and daggers at the crowded railway station for about 25 minutes.

Thirty three people, including four militants, were killed and 143 injured in China's worst terrorist attack which Beijing alleged was carried out by the Al Qaeda-linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), fighting for the independence of Xinjiang

China has described the attack as an act of terror, while state media dubbed it as "China's 9/11".

Mourning the dead in the attack which shocked the nation, China said the international community should speak in one voice against the menace of terrorism.

"The bloody facts are in front of all of us. All the justice upholders around the world have conscience," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a media briefing.

He was replying to questions on criticism in China against the US for not terming the last Saturday's gruesome attacks as a terrorist act.

"We believe in dealing with violent terrorists acts like this international community should speak in one voice and hold joint action, because the terrorists are common enemy of all mankind," Qin said.

Noting that preliminary investigations into the attack pointed towards the involvement of ETIM, Qin said: "I want to stress that for the violent terrorist forces, no matter which group was involved, the Chinese government will severely crackdown on it in accordance with law."

Qin told reporters that "some East Turkestan flags were found on the scene".

Chinese police had launched a manhunt to arrest militants who escaped after the attacks, described as the worst incident of violence in China in recent times.

The killing spree follows an incident in Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square in October which shook the country's Communist leadership, forcing them to establish a state committee to ensure national security. Five persons were killed in the attack 

A senior Uyghur general in the Chinese military said China is keeping strict watch at Xinjiang borders to prevent any infiltration by militants.

Xinjiang shares borders with several countries, including Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir.

Saimati Muhammat, major general and deputy commander of the Xinjiang Military Area Command, said Xinjiang is at the front line against the infiltration of the "three forces", namely terrorism, extremism and separatism.

The armed forces in Xinjiang will  never ease border controls, he told Xinhua. "We watch the border closely. Any oversight, which lets terrorists in or out, is unacceptable.

China's official media criticised the US and sections of the western media for not terming the Kunming incident as a terrorist attack.

"For the world's "most active human rights defender", the latest random killing of 29 innocent civilians at a crowded Chinese train station is too insignificant to be a "terrorist activity," state-run Xinhua news agency said in snide remarks against the US.

The US Embassy in China has downplayed the severity of the bloody carnage, calling it on its official Weibo (Chiense twitter) account a "horrible and totally meaningless act of violence", short of calling the murderers "terrorists", it said in a commentary on Monday.

"The wording is the continuation of the (US) government's ambiguous stance on China's counter-terrorism drive in Xinjiang, the northwestern autonomous region haunted by suicide bombs and deadly assaults," it said.

A commentator on state-run CCTV took a critical view of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for not terming the incident as a terrorist attack in his statement condemning the incident.

Ban condemned "in the strongest terms the terrible attack today on civilians at the railway station in Kunming" and expressed hope that "those responsible will be brought to justice".

The attack by the Chinese media against the US was significant as overseas Uyghur group headed by Rebiya Kadeer, a businesswoman-turned-politician from Xinjiang, is based in America and has been campaigning against Chinese crackdown in the resource-rich province.

Meanwhile, semblance of normalcy has returned to Kunming city after the gruesome knife attacks.

With a heavy police presence, normal operations have resumed and passengers can walk into and out of the station with no new restrictions

Image: Police investigate after a group of armed men attacked people at Kunming railway station

Photograph: Reuters

K J M Varma in Beijing
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