Yesterday more than a dozen men (and possibly two women according to some eyewitnesses) dressed in black, wearing facemasks and armed with long knives attacked the crowd waiting at the Kunming railroad station. The most recent report had 29 people killed and 162 injured.

Five of the attackers were shot and killed by police. The city government of Kunming announced today that according to the evidence they have, the attackers were Uyghur separatists.

Uyghurs are ethnic group in Xinjiang province in northwestern part of China. Xinjiang was part of the famous Silk Road during the Han dynasty. This region was in and out of Chinese central government's controls throughout history, with repeated rebellions followed by brutal suppression.

Xinjiang was under the control of Qing dynasty at the moment of the Republic revolution in 1911. Its governor nominally submitted to the new Republic. In 1933, a region-wide rebellion brought forth the first East-Turkistan Republic. It existed only very briefly before being crushed by the Nationalist Muslim troops. Soon after, Soviet troops invaded and occupied Xinjiang. Soviet Union ruled Xinjiang through its proxy Sheng Shicai. But Sheng broke with the communists in 1943, executing all representatives from the Chinese Communist Party including Mao's brother.

In 1944, Soviet Union instigated another revolution in Xinjiang that led to the establishment of the second East-Turkistan Republic. This was considered part of the Chinese communist revolution and the 2nd ETR merged with communist China without resistance in 1949.

During the great famine of 1958-1961, many ethnic Uyghurs fled to the Soviet Union. Xinjiang became restive again after Deng Xiaoping loosened control in 1979. There were a number of student demonstrations in the 1980s. The separatist movement turned violent in 1990, when the Baren Township riot turned into an armed conflict between Uyghur fighters and the PLA. After that the separatist movement resorted largely to terrorist tactics, with three bus bombings in Urumqi in 1997, an attempted suicide bombing of China Southern airliner in 2008, an attempted hijacking of Tianjin Airline flight 7554 in 2012, and car bombing on Tiananmen Square in 2013.

A large number of Uyghur separatists have fought in Afghanistan, which is just across the border, against the US troops. 22 of these Uyghur fighters were captured by US and kept at Guantanamo. Yet the US does not recognize the separatist group that sent these people to fight against the US as terrorists. In fact, the US government still gives money to the political wing of the Uyghur separatist group, World Uyghur Congress. Of course World Uyghur Congress denies any involvement with such terrorist activities.

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