KUNMING, China — Three more suspects were arrested in connection with the weekend knife attacks in southern China that left 29 people dead, and the assailants' leader has been identified, authorities said late Monday.
The Ministry of Public Security said the attack in Kunming, which officials are treating as a terrorist act, was led by a man named Abdurehim Kurban. It was unclear whether Kurban, whose age, occupation and residence were not released, was among four suspects now in custody or was one of the four attackers shot dead by police at the scene of the rampage Saturday night.
Chinese authorities blamed the attack on separatists from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, which has a large population of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority.
State-run media initially said that at least 10 attackers stormed the train station in the southern city of Kunming. But on Monday, the official New China News Agency said the group numbered eight — six men and two women.
The carnage at the station came just before two high-level political gatherings in Beijing. As the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference opened Monday, leaders stood for a moment of silence.
More than 130 people were injured in the attack, and about 20 remained in critical condition.
Extra security forces were deployed around the Kunming station Sunday and Monday, a few toting large guns and wearing camouflage and helmets. But most of the officers on duty Sunday evening adopted a casual posture, with some lounging in golf carts, texting on cellphones and eating noodles.
Operations at the station were back to normal Monday morning, and police were not individually screening people coming into the large open-air plaza in front of the station or into the ticketing hall facing the plaza, where the rampage occurred.
Still, the psychological impact of the attack was being felt far and wide. News outlets around the country were publishing tips for the public on what to do in case of a terrorist incident. And the bloodshed seemed likely to exacerbate tension and mistrust between the nation's Uighurs and majority Han Chinese, already extremely high in Xinjiang.
"Now I'm going to be very careful when I meet Uighurs," said Chen Bing, a 39-year-old Han Chinese from Kunming, who added that Uighurs, particularly youths, had a reputation for petty theft in the city. "I probably won't be buying their skewers or melons in the near future."
Kunming does not have a large population of Uighurs, but police were reportedly checking identity cards and making a show of force in one neighborhood where some members of the minority live.
He Xubing, a 22-year-old who works as a karaoke club technician in Kunming, said the attack had not changed his view of Uighurs.
"I'm shocked by this event, but I'm not scared," he said, waiting outside a blood donation center Sunday night about a mile from the train station, one of many volunteer donors. "This won't stop me from buying Uighurs' goods. Most Uighurs are still good."
Times news assistant Tommy Yang contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times