SHANGHAI -- At least 27 people died and more than 100 were injured Saturday when a group of knife-wielding assailants attacked a railway station in southern China, state-run media reported.
Gruesome photos of the scene in Kunming from a local TV news broadcast showed several people, their clothing soaked in blood, lying on a tile floor inside the station, and more people on the ground outside. State-run CCTV news said authorities had killed the attackers.
There was no immediate word on the identity of the assailants or their motives. Although stabbings by individuals are not uncommon in China, this type of deadly and apparently coordinated attack involving multiple assailants is extremely rare in China. Trains bound for the station were diverted, local TV station K6 said.
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, is some 1,300 miles southwest of Beijing. The bloody incident comes just before two important gatherings are to be held in the capital this week, the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.
The Oriental Morning Post cited a witness, Wang Dinggeng, as saying that he was resting outside the station shortly after 9 p.m. when he saw two men in masks and black clothing rushing into the ticketing office. Approximately five minutes later, he heard screams.
Another person claiming to be a witness posted an account online saying that sometime after 9:24 p.m. he was waiting at the ticket counter when chaos erupted. He wrote that he saw a man in a yellow jacket and woman in black clothing carrying out the attack, and that one had a knife approximately 2 feet long.
Dozens of ambulances and other emergency vehicles were dispatched to the scene, authorities said.
Last week, ahead of the two meetings in Beijing, authorities announced they were stepping up security in the far Western region of Xinjiang and four other northwestern areas: Gansu, Shaanxi and Qinghai provinces and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Police in those areas are also to receive anti-terrorism training, state-run media outlets reported.
However, those areas are not near Yunnan, which borders Vietnam, Laos and Burma.
In July 2009, riots in the Xinjiang city of Urumqi left nearly 200 people dead. Xinjiang has a large population of Uighurs, a Muslim minority group.
In October 2013, a jeep crashed in Tiananmen Square, killing its three occupants and two pedestrians, and injuring 40 people. The government said the incident was a terrorist attack carried out by members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Muslim separatist group founded by Uighurs.
Tommy Yang in the Times' Beijing bureau contributed to this report.