Policemen guard around the site of a deadly stabbing incident in a residential block in Changsha, Hunan province, China, 14 March 2014. It’s said by witnesses several Uygur-like people started stabbing passers-by after a quarrel. At least three people were killed by the assailants, and one of attackers got shot by the police. (EPA)

Five people were stabbed to death Friday morning at a market in the capital of Hunan Province in central China. Local media report that several Uighur “naan peddlers” suddenly went on a knifing rampage after a disagreement among food stall owners escalated into violence.

Police shot dead one of the knife-wielding assailants and arrested another, the AP reports.

The killings recalled a Chinese massacre from earlier this month when 29 people were knifed to death — and another 140 injured — at a train station in southern China. Authorities quickly pinned the “terrorist attack” on “Xinjiang separatist forces.” Xinjiang is a far northwestern province of China populated by the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group.

Early Friday morning it wasn’t clear whether the attack was an act of terror. The South China Morning Post reported that the assailants owned a local baked naan shop, and at 10 a.m. an argument they had with several local residents ignited.

Xinhua says five attackers slashed passersby. Early photos uploaded to the Chinese social media website Weibo show several bodies laying in the middle of the street or on stairs, soaked in blood. Another shows a mustachioed man in handcuffs. The authenticity of the photographs could not be immediately confirmed.

One of the dead, AP reports, was an elderly vendor and another man who “was slashed and stabbed repeatedly as he lay bleeding on the ground.”

This most recent attack is likely to exacerbate tension in a nation already rattled by the knife attacks two weeks ago. Unrest in Xinjiang has killed at least 100 people last year, and Beijing has moved to clamp down on the ethnic group, which has often opposed the cultural and religious restrictions shackling them.


WARNING: Video and images below may be disturbing because of their graphic nature.

A body is pictured lying on the ground at a crime scene on a street, in Changsha, Hunan Province March 14, 2014. A group of knife-wielding assailants attacked civilians in Changsha on Friday morning, leaving at least one person dead, according to Xinhua News Agency. REUTERS/Bai Yu/Xinhua