KUNMING (AFP, REUTERS) - Unidentified armed gunmen reportedly stormed a railway station in Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, yesterday, leaving 27 dead and at least 109 injured, reports said.
State television said on its official microblog that the incident had been deemed a "violent terror attack".
Victims described knife-wielding attackers dressed in black bursting into Kunming railway station and slashing indiscriminately.
Beijing's top security official was reported to be heading to the scene.
A group of knife-wielding men dressed in black attacked Kunming Railway Station last night. At least 27 people were killed and 109 injured.
Online postings by witnesses said the men began to hack passers-by “crazily” with long knives shortly after 9pm. The attack started outside the station and continued to the ticket hall.
Gunshots were heard and Xinhua said “several predators were shot dead” by police.
The attack came ahead of the opening of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on Monday and the National People’s Congress on Wednesday. This is traditionally the most politically sensitive time of the year, with the government eager to maintain stability and paint a rosy picture as thousands of delegates and government leaders head to the capital.
Pictures posted on weibo, the Twitter-like social media, showed blood, luggage and clothes scattering on the floor of the ticket hall. Some photos showed victims lying in pools of blood inside and outside the train station. Such violence is extremely rare in Kunming, the usually peaceful capital of Yunnan.
A posting online said the attackers were five young men dressed in black uniforms. The police did not specify their number, or their ethnicity or motives, although some online postings alleged they were Uygurs.
A hotel worker told the Sunday Morning Post last night she heard the same rumour from people who took refuge in her hotel. “People are rushing towards our hotel. We heard that the attackers are dressed in black, and they are Uygurs.”
Although the police said they shot dead the assailants she said the city was in panic. A number of police officers were also injured.
“Our guests who walked passed the train station told us not to leave the hotel because the situation is dangerous. We dare not leave the hotel right now. There are many police outside. We just fear that not all the attackers have been caught.”
A microblogger named “HuangY3xin-Dione”, who was dining in a restaurant near the station, said she was “scared to death”, adding that she saw a group of men in black with two long knives chasing people.
Another hotel employee told the Post that a number of roads had been cordoned off.
China has been hit by a series of violent incidents in recent months, but most of them were in restive Xinjiang. The authorities blame Uygur separatists. In October last year, an SUV careened along a packed pedestrian walkway in Tiananmen Square and struck dozens of people before bursting into flames. Police blamed Uygur separatists.