4 hurt in knife attack in a crowded chess hall in western China

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Knife-wielding attackers in western China injured four people in a crowded chess hall, 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 who seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Four people were injured in a struggle with the attackers in Sunday's incident in the city of Hotan, but their lives were not in danger, China Central Television (CCTV) said. Two of the attackers died from serious injuries and a third was arrested.

Armed police arrived in just over a minute and overpowered the attackers with the help of chess players.

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.

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, harbouring banned weapons and other crimes.

Rights activists and exile groups have charged that the government's own repressive policies in Xinjiang have sowed the seeds of unrest, a claim Beijing denies.

In March, 29 people were stabbed to death at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming. A car burst into flames at the edge of Beijing's Tiananmen Square in October, killing five people.

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