A Chinese official said the eight suspects in a knife attack that killed 29 people at a train station over the weekend waged the assault after they were unable to leave the country to join a “holy war,” state media reported Wednesday.
Qin Guangrong, the Communist Party chief of Yunnan province, made the remarks Tuesday while briefing the provincial delegation ahead of the opening of China’s annual ceremonial legislature in Beijing, state-run China National Radio said.
Qin did not elaborate on the holy war, the radio broadcaster said.
Officials have said the attack Saturday in the southern city of Kunming was instigated by separatists from the far west region of Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Uighur minority. Police fatally shot four of the suspects and have the other four in custody.
Qin said the gang of six men and two women had tried and failed to leave the country across the border in Yunnan, and later in Guangdong province. The report did not specify whether Qin said they tried to sneak across those borders.
The suspects then returned to Yunnan and decided to mount an attack there, at either a bus station or a train station, Qin said.
Qin told the delegates that police caught the last three suspects in Honghe, 280 kilometers (174 miles) south of Kunming and closer to the border.
The National People’s Congress observed a moment of silence for the victims of the attack during its opening session Wednesday. The leadership has condemned the attack and vowed an unrelenting crackdown on terrorism.