4 found guilty of railway station knife attack in China

Updated 5:20 AM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014

Story highlights

Court says the accused led a terrorist group that planned and executed the attack

The train station attack shook the country and state media labeled it "China's 9/11"

(CNN) —  

Four people were convicted Friday of plotting a knife attack that killed 31 people at a railway station in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

A court in the city said in an online statement the accused led a terrorist group that planned and executed the attack, which wounded 141 people on March 1.

Three were sentenced to death; the fourth to a life in prison.

READ: Families reel, witnesses haunted after Kunming attacks

The names of the four suspects suggested they were Uyghur, a mainly Muslim ethnic group from Xinjiang, northwest China. Authorities had blamed terrorists from the region for the attack.

One of the accused stormed the railway station, along with at least four other assailants whom police shot dead at the scene. The attackers wore black and wielded long knives and machetes.

State television broadcast an interview with a police officer who was part of the SWAT team dispatched to the railway station, one of China’s busiest.

“The person closest to me had his face covered by a black veil. I shot him down when he was about a meter away from my gun. His knife was around 60 or 70 centimeters long,” the officer told CCTV.

The other three who stood trial were caught by police when they were trying to sneak out of the country a few days before the attack, the court said

The train station attack shook the country and state media labeled it “China’s 9/11.”

It was the deadliest of a recent spate of violent incidents that have been blamed on Uyghurs.

In May, terrorists used car bombs to attack an open-air market in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, leaving 39 dead and 94 injured.

Last month, China executed three it said had masterminded an October 2013 suicide car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

READ: China train station killings described as terrorist attack

CNN’s Beijing bureau contributed to this report