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Experts skeptical of Kunming link to global terror

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In this Monday, March 3, 2014 photo, people stand on a street near a wall painted with figures representing Han Chinese, center, and other ethnic groups living in the city as part of a tourism advertisement outside the Kunming Train Station in Kunming, in western China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Monday, March 3, 2014 photo, people stand on a street near a wall painted with figures representing Han Chinese, center, and other ethnic groups living in the city as part of a tourism advertisement outside the Kunming Train Station in Kunming, in western China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Monday, March 3, 2014 photo, a Uighur man walks past a propaganda poster, partially in Uighur language, urging for ethnic unity in a community shared by both ethnic Uighur and Han Chinese residents in Kunming, in western China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Monday, March 3, 2014 photo, a man holds a poster with slogans urging fights against terrorists on a square outside the Kunming Train Station, where more than 10 assailants slashed scores of people with knives Saturday evening, in Kunming, in western China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Monday March 3, 2014 photo, a pregnant Uighur woman watches her husband working on lamb barbecues at their food stall in Kunming, in western China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. . (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

In this Sunday March 2, 2014 photo, Uighur women, left, sew as a Han Chinese woman rides her tricycle cart past them in a community shared by both Han Chinese and Uighur ethnic residents in Kunming, in southwestern China’s Yunnan province. China said the vicious slashing spree Saturday that killed 29 people in the southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons – nothing more than long knives – have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)

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KUNMING, China (AP) — China says the vicious slashing spree that killed 29 people in a southern city was the work of separatists linked to international terrorism, but the assailants’ homespun methods and low-tech weapons — nothing more than long knives — have led some analysts to suspect they didn’t get outside help.

Officials have blamed secessionists from far-western Xinjiang for Saturday’s attack at a train station in Kunming, more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) to the southeast. It is by far the deadliest attack blamed on Xinjiang militants to have taken place outside the region, and has been a wake-up call for Chinese that terrorism can strike anywhere.

Members of the Muslim Uighur (WEE-gur) ethnic group have waged a simmering rebellion against Chinese rule in Xinjiang, where clashes between Uighurs and members of China’s Han majority are frequent. Many observers say the Turkic-speaking Uighurs are lashing out because they are being marginalized and feel their culture is being suppressed.

Beijing uses its claim of an international conspiracy to defend its crackdown on Uighur dissent, but there hasn’t been substantial evidence to support ties to foreign Muslim extremists.

“Historically, Uighurs have had a difficult time getting traction and attention from the global jihadist movement,” said Raffaello Pantucci, London-based senior research fellow at Royal United Services Institute. “We’ve had a number of videos in which senior members of al-Qaida have highlighted the cause and said this is a group to support and help, but in practical terms we have seen very little actually happen.”

No group has claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack, carried out by at least eight black-clad assailants.

Although authorities have not explicitly mentioned the attackers’ ethnicity, they have shown images of a black flag with a crescent moon said to have been found at the attack site. They cite the flags as evidence of involvement by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which the government says has ties to overseas supporters of Uighur separatism. They also say the high number of victims — 143 people wounded in addition to the 29 killed — is evidence the attackers had training.

Sean Roberts of George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, who has studied Uighurs in Central Asia and China, said the Kunming assailants’ simple weaponry undermines claims of links to international terrorist groups, but said some Uighurs may be growing more militant.

“The ongoing development and further marginalization of the Uighurs, and

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