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Terror at Chinese train stations continues

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Six people were injured in a knife attack Tuesday morning at a crowded railway station in the southern city of Guangzhou. It was the third attack by suspected terrorists at Chinese railway stations in the past 70 days.

According to China’s state media outlet Xinhua, four of the injured are currently receiving treatment at a nearby hospital, and all are expected to recover. One attacker was shot and captured by police.

On March 1, 143 civilians were injured and 29 were killed when eight knife-wielding assailants attacked a crowded train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. Less than one week ago, 79 people were injured and three were killed in a “terrorist attack” on a railway station in Urumqi when suicide bombers detonated explosives and accomplices “slashed people with knives.” Urumqi is the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, an area known for civil unrest and separatist leanings.

Both the Kunming and Urumqi attacks were attributed to “separatists” from Xinjiang’s “predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority,” but the motivation behind the Guangzhou attacks has not yet been determined.

"The battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness,” President Xi Jinping said after the attack in Xinjiang. “Decisive actions must be taken to resolutely suppress the terrorists' rampant momentum.” This third attack “came at awkward time for him” — right between the Xinjiang and Guangzhou attacks — suggesting that terrorists are the only ones acting decisively.

The ability to time a delicate, coordinated attack precisely when Xi began promising enhanced security is a sign of awareness, strategy and restraint on the part of the attackers. Much more than a random act of violence, the Guangzhou attack “dramatically undermined any remaining confidence that the authorities have this situation under control.”

Recent acts of terror in China have largely escaped global headlines due to their relatively small scale and the baseness of the weapons used. But considering that China’s oft-forgotten far-western regions border Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that “some of the most militant among the Uighurs have been active at high levels with jihadi organizations” fighting there, there’s plenty of room for any future attacks to become more tactically and logistically advanced.

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