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June 24, 2017

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Officer tells of shooting Kunming attackers

KUNMING, China--Chinese state television on Tuesday broadcast an interview with a police officer said to have shot five knife-wielding thugs who killed and injured scores of people in a railway station attack in Kunming.

Security remained tight and residents nervous in the southwestern city, four days after the assault that state media dubbed "China's 9/11."

Both Beijing and Washington have described it as terrorism, with China blaming separatists from its restive far-western region of Xinjiang — home to the mainly Muslim Uighur minority — for killing 29 people and injuring 143.

The unnamed officer, whose face was not shown, said it took him 15 seconds to shoot the five attackers — four of them fatally — during the assault.

He leads a four-member emergency response team that arrived at the scene 10 minutes after the stabbing started but was the only one equipped with an automatic rifle, he told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV).

"Some people were being held on the ground and they were still stabbing them," he said.

Five of the attackers turned towards him, he said, and he fired a warning shot but they did not respond.

He then shot at the one closest to him, who was "in black clothes and veiled" and "held a knife about 60-70 centimeters" long.

"The other four did not back off and continued to run at me, with knives," the police officer said in the interview. "I shot all of them.

"It probably took 15 seconds from firing the first shot to the moment when all five were shot and fell to the ground."

Few further details were given by CCTV for what the team did between arriving at the station and the officer opening fire, or afterwards.

Some reports have said the entire incident lasted as long as 25 minutes. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.

'I saved many civilians'

"I think I saved many innocent civilians. I did right by the people of Kunming and I did right by using my gun," the policeman told CCTV.

The ministry of public security said that an eight-strong gang carried out the attack, with three other suspects captured Monday. Four assailants were shot dead at the scene and one injured woman was detained, it said.

The Communist Party head of Yunnan province said Tuesday that the woman had confessed, according to a news portal run by the national prosecuting authority.

Police maintained a prominent presence at Kunming station Tuesday, with two riot vans next to the main plaza in front of the scene of the attack.

Armed guards were also on watch at the airport's main entrances, and paramilitary police with riot shields patrolled the terminal building.

Police vans were parked at many of the city's major junctions and officers patrolled the ground floor of Kunming's Number One People's Hospital, where casualties were still being treated. Witnesses have described how the attackers aimed for their victims' heads and necks to achieve maximum casualties.

Separately, the Munich-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) strongly condemned the violence and its exiled president, Rebiya Kadeer, appealed to Beijing not to crack down on Uighurs.

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