BEIJING – Three knife-wielding assailants rushed into a chess hall in western China, in a deadly clash that drew armed security forces, state television reported on Monday, as the country grapples with a wave of unrest in the region.
The attack is the latest in a string of incidents in restive Xinjiang, the traditional home of ethnic Uighurs. China has blamed previous knife and bomb attacks on separatists seeking to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.
The televised report gave no details on a motive for the Sunday evening attack in Hotan city, in the region’s south. The report on the Hotan government’s website said the civilians — who had been playing chess — fought back and sounded an alarm, which led people from neighboring businesses and others to come and encircle the attackers with unspecified weapons.
Armed police arrived just over a minute later and overpowered the attackers with the help of chess players. Two of the assailants died in the clashes, while the third was wounded and then arrested, it said, adding that four civilians were also injured.
Chess halls throughout China are thronged by customers who can spend hours drinking tea and playing cards, chess or other games. The motive for Sunday’s attack was not immediately clear.
Requests for comment from Hotan’s publicity department and police went unanswered on Monday.
China has been on edge since a suicide bombing last month killed 39 people at a morning vegetable market in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi. Knife attacks in the past have often resulted in attackers being arrested or killed.
Police in Xinjiang have arrested or tried dozens of suspects in recent weeks for spreading extremist propaganda, harboring banned weapons and other crimes.
Meanwhile, Chinese rights activists and exile groups have charged that the government’s own repressive policies in Xinjiang are sowing the seeds of unrest, a claim Beijing vehemently denies.
In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming, and last October, a car burst into flames at the edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing five people.