Welcome!

News Feed Item

The Terrorist Attack in Kunming, China: Does It Indicate a Growing Threat Worldwide?

Mineta Transportation Institute security experts Brian Michael Jenkins and Bruce R. Butterworth examine the facts.


SAN JOSE, Calif., March 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --At 9:00 pm on March 1, 2014, six men and two women, dressed in black and wielding knives, arrived at the Kunming train station, one of the largest in southwest China, and began slashing people at random. Before authorities could stop them, the assailants had killed 29 people and wounded another 143. It was the second worst terrorist attack in the history of the People's Republic of China, not including a series of bombings in Shijiazhuang in 1998, which killed 108 people. These, however, were carried out for personal, not political reasons. It was also China's second most lethal transportation attacks.

Mineta Transportation Institute

Does this event indicate that these types of assaults may spread to other nations? We certainly have seen public attacks before, although with slightly different tactics and methods. When we examine the details from this latest case, what are we learning?

The tactic of multiple armed attackers killing as many as possible at a transportation center, tourist site, or shopping mall recalls the 1997 Luxor massacre in Egypt, in which six terrorist gunmen attacked tourists trapped inside a temple, killing 62—slashing many of them with machetes during the 45-minute rampage before the attackers were gunned down by police. In the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, two of the ten gunmen opened fire on passengers in Mumbai's Central Railway Terminal. During the next 90 minutes, the two killed 58 (one-third of the fatalities in the Mumbai attack) and wounded 104. In 2013, four gunmen attacked shoppers at the Westgate shopping mall In Nairobi, killing 67 and wounding over 200 during the 80-hour siege.

The Kunming attack was strikingly different in that the attackers in this case were armed not with guns or bombs, but only with knives. Guns are difficult to obtain in China. Attacks involving knives, axes, cleavers, or other readily available tools are more common. Between 2010 and 2012, lone knife-wielding attackers killed 25 and wounded more than 100, mainly small children, in a spate of unconnected attacks at schools. In 2009, residents of Urumqui, the capital of China's Xinjiang Province, were targets of a series of stabbings with syringes; 531 people reported being attacked, although authorities could find evidence of wounds on only 171 of them. Almost all victims were Han Chinese, who comprise about 40 percent of Xinjiang's population. The accused attackers were Uighurs, Turkic-speaking Muslims who comprise about 43 percent of Xinjiang's population. The syringe attacks followed violent riots, which had occurred a month earlier when protesting Uighurs began attacking Han merchants. Nearly 200 were killed. 

Although no group claimed responsibility for the recent attack in Kunming, Chinese authorities quickly blamed Uighur extremists. Uighurs, who comprise a majority of the population in China's far western region, resent Chinese domination. Some demand more respect for human rights, some seek greater autonomy, a few demand independence for the geographic area they call East Turkestan. Uighur resistance is persistent, but inchoate. In recent years, one stream of Uighur separatism has taken on a more militant Islamist complexion reflected in the shadowy East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The United States designated ETIM a foreign terrorist organization in 2001 but later removed it, stating it no longer had any operational capacity. Although some analysts say that ETIM has many supporters, and reports credit the ETIM with more than 200 terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2001, others expressed skepticism about its operational capabilities.

Since 2001, Chinese authorities have blamed ETIM or Uighur separatists in general for a number of terrorist plots and attacks. Several plots were uncovered in 2008, raising concerns about security at the Beijing Olympics later that year. In March 2008, authorities claimed that an attempted sabotage of a commercial flight between Urumqui and Beijing had been foiled when crew members discovered flammable material in the plane's restroom. In August, suspected ETIM militants drove a truck into a group of jogging policemen, then got out of the truck and attacked the group with machetes, killing 16. Six days later, seven men, armed with homemade explosives, crashed taxis into government buildings.

Another attack involving the tactic of crashing a vehicle into a target occurred in 2010 when six Uighur men reportedly drove an explosives-filled truck into a group of police officers. In 2011, Two Uighurs driving a hijacked truck mowed down pedestrians on a crowded street in Kashgar, and then started slashing people with knives. Eighteen people died. In 2012, six Uighur men attempted to storm the cockpit and hijack a flight bound for Urumqui, but they were overpowered by the crew and passengers.

In June 2013, 17 knife-wielding men attacked a police station and government building in Xinjiang Province; 35 people were killed. And in October 2013, a car was deliberately driven into a crowd in Beijing's Tienanmen Square, catching fire and killing five people. Five suspects, all Uighurs, were later arrested for what authorities described as a terrorist attack.

The Mineta Transportation Institute's database of terrorist and serious criminal attacks on surface transportation shows 24 incidents in China since 1982. These have resulted in 181 fatalities and 526 injuries, including the Kunming attack. That puts China in 26th place among nations in the overall number of attacks. However, these attacks have been highly lethal, placing China 15th in the average number of fatalities per attack. Eight of the attacks are credited to Uighur or Muslim separatists. The remaining attacks were carried out by unknown individuals or groups. (The opacity of news media in China makes it difficult to assess responsibility and motives.)

Eighty-three percent of the attacks have been directed against buses and bus stations, and the remaining 17 percent against trains and train stations. Twenty-one of the 24 attacks involved improvised explosive devices or simply using dynamite. The three most lethal attacks were the February 1998 bus bombing in Wuhan City, which killed 50 and injured 30; the recent Kunming knife attack (which, as noted above, is one of the most lethal transportation attacks in China); and finally, a June 1989 explosion of dynamite that was placed in a train passenger toilet between Hangzhou and Shanghai. That explosion killed 20 and injured 11.

So, what have we learned from the Kunming attack? While 24 attacks on surface transportation over a 22-year period do not indicate a determined terrorist campaign or a major threat, the Kunming attack does represent an escalation in the violence. The incident once again demonstrates that, even when armed only with knives, a group of determined attackers can cause a high number of casualties. In this case, each of the eight attackers killed an average of three people and wounded another 18 before being stopped. That, however, is significantly fewer than the casualties caused by gunmen in Luxor, Mumbai, and Nairobi, or by the use of improvised explosive devices in previous attacks in China. It is apparent that, whether dealing with shooters or knife-wielding assailants, only prompt armed intervention halts the killing.

The event in China does not indicate a specific terrorist threat outside of China, nor are we likely to see bands of knife-wielding attackers in Western capitals. However, coupled with last year's bombings of buses and the train station in Volgograd, Russia, it does suggest that terrorists worldwide continue to see surface transportation and train stations as venues for mass casualty attacks.

ABOUT BRIAN MICHAEL JENKINS
Brian Michael Jenkins is an international authority on terrorism and sophisticated crime. He directs the Mineta Transportation Institute's (MTI) National Transportation Safety and Security Center, which focuses on research into protecting surface transportation against terrorist attacks. He is also a senior advisor to the president of RAND. From 1989-98, Mr. Jenkins was deputy chairman of Kroll Associates, an international investigative and consulting firm. Before that, he was chairman of RAND's Political Science Department, where he also directed research on political violence. He has authored several books, chapters, and articles on counterterrorism, including International Terrorism: A New Mode of Conflict and Will Terrorists Go Nuclear? Most recently, he published When Armies Divide, a discussion about nuclear arms in the hands of rebelling armies. He also has been principal investigator for many peer-reviewed security-focused research reports for MTI.

ABOUT BRUCE R. BUTTERWORTH
Mr. Butterworth has worked at congressional, senior policy, and operational levels, including with the House Government Operations Committee, Department of Transportation, and the Office of the Secretary. He managed negotiations on air and maritime services in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) (now the World Trade Organization), chaired U.S. delegations to United Nations committees, and was part of the response to the bombing of Pan Am 103. He was an executive in airline security, and he launched a successful program of dangerous-goods regulation and cargo security after the 1995 ValuJet crash. He worked closely with Congress and other federal-level agencies and departments. Currently, he is a research associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute. Mr. Butterworth received an MS degree from the London School of Economics and a BA degree from the University of the Pacific (magna cum laude). He was a California State Scholar and a Rotary Foundation Fellow.

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE (MTI):
MTI conducts research, education, and information transfer programs focusing on surface transportation policy and management issues, especially related to transit. MTI was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and won national re-designation competitions in 2002, 2006 and 2011. The Institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through Caltrans, and public and private grants. In 2006 the US Department of Homeland Security selected MTI as a National Transportation Security Center of Excellence. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI is the lead institute for the Mineta National Transit Research Consortium, an affiliation of nine university transportation research centers. MTI is affiliated with San Jose (CA) State University's College of Business. Visit transweb.sjsu.edu

Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100318/MTILOGO

Contact:
Donna Maurillo
MTI Communications Director
831-234-4009 (mobile)
donna.maurillo (at) sjsu.edu

SOURCE Mineta Transportation Institute

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
"We are an all-flash array storage provider but our focus has been on VM-aware storage specifically for virtualized applications," stated Dhiraj Sehgal of Tintri in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Choosing the right cloud for your workloads is a balancing act that can cost your organization time, money and aggravation - unless you get it right the first time. Economics, speed, performance, accessibility, administrative needs and security all play a vital role in dictating your approach to the cloud. Without knowing the right questions to ask, you could wind up paying for capacity you'll never need or underestimating the resources required to run your applications.
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
Adding public cloud resources to an existing application can be a daunting process. The tools that you currently use to manage the software and hardware outside the cloud aren’t always the best tools to efficiently grow into the cloud. All of the major configuration management tools have cloud orchestration plugins that can be leveraged, but there are also cloud-native tools that can dramatically improve the efficiency of managing your application lifecycle. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, ...
Security, data privacy, reliability and regulatory compliance are critical factors when evaluating whether to move business applications from in-house client hosted environments to a cloud platform. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Vandana Viswanathan, Associate Director at Cognizant, In this session, will provide an orientation to the five stages required to implement a cloud hosted solution validation strategy.
The security needs of IoT environments require a strong, proven approach to maintain security, trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vic...
With the proliferation of both SQL and NoSQL databases, organizations can now target specific fit-for-purpose database tools for their different application needs regarding scalability, ease of use, ACID support, etc. Platform as a Service offerings make this even easier now, enabling developers to roll out their own database infrastructure in minutes with minimal management overhead. However, this same amount of flexibility also comes with the challenges of picking the right tool, on the right ...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
"Splunk basically takes machine data and we make it usable, valuable and accessible for everyone. The way that plays in DevOps is - we need to make data-driven decisions to delivering applications," explained Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk and @DevOpsSummit Conference Chair, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Security, data privacy, reliability, and regulatory compliance are critical factors when evaluating whether to move business applications from in-house, client-hosted environments to a cloud platform. Quality assurance plays a vital role in ensuring that the appropriate level of risk assessment, verification, and validation takes place to ensure business continuity during the migration to a new cloud platform.
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Robert Doyle, lead architect at eCube Systems, will examine the issues and need for an agile infrastructure and show the advantages of capturing developer knowledge in an exportable file for migration into production. He will introduce the use of NXTmonitor, a next-generation DevOps tool that captures application environments, dependencies and start/stop procedures in a portable configuration file with an easy-to-use GUI. In addition to captur...
Who are you? How do you introduce yourself? Do you use a name, or do you greet a friend by the last four digits of his social security number? Assuming you don’t, why are we content to associate our identity with 10 random digits assigned by our phone company? Identity is an issue that affects everyone, but as individuals we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ben Klang, Founder & President of Mojo Lingo, discussed the impact of technology on identity. Sho...
A critical component of any IoT project is what to do with all the data being generated. This data needs to be captured, processed, structured, and stored in a way to facilitate different kinds of queries. Traditional data warehouse and analytical systems are mature technologies that can be used to handle certain kinds of queries, but they are not always well suited to many problems, particularly when there is a need for real-time insights.