Nine suspects are being pursued after they launched a coordinated knife attack and killed 50 workers at a northwestern Chinese coal mine, reports Radio Free Asia.
The incident occurred on September 18 in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The attackers are alleged to be Uyghur separatists.
After overtaking security guards, the attackers killed the workers while they were asleep in bunkhouses at the Sogan colliery in Aksu. Another 50 workers were injured. The suspects are believed to be hiding in a nearby mountain ravine where a manhunt operation is underway.
Most of the victims were Han Chinese.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region suffers from discord due to ethnic fault lines. Uyghurs identify more closely with Central Asian nations. The area was independent up to 1949 when it became part of China. China has been asserting is control over the area with more westward migration and a heavier military presence.
Information about the attack is being guarded by officials:
“The damage of the attack was very severe—that is why we are controlling [the flow of] information about the incident so strictly, lest we frighten Han migrants in Aksu,” said the cadre, speaking on condition of anonymity.
SEE ALSO: China launches massive military manhunt for coal mine killers
An area double the size of Manhattan has been cordoned off as authorities pursue suspects and residents fear the death toll could be as high as 100.