Masked woman was first to be shot as she lunged at team leader
The SWAT team leader deployed to the scene as knife-wielding attackers hacked passengers to death at Kunming railway station said he shot five terrorists in 15 seconds, preventing further bloodshed.
After twice firing warning shots, captain Zhang Jun (his real name was withheld for security purposes) gunned down a masked woman who lunged at him with a knife, before rapidly shooting another four of the attackers, the Legal Daily newspaper reported.
Zhang and his three-man Yunnan Kunming SWAT team were patrolling the city of three million people when they received an emergency call to drive to the station.
Watch: SWAT team leader recounts brush with death
I didn’t have time to think, I shot them as fast as I could. After I shot all five, the first one, also the nearest to me, stood up again and threw a knife at me. Luckily I tilted my head
CCTV said the crack team arrived 10 minutes after the attack had started, only to be greeted by scenes of chaos. Crowds were fleeing and the attackers – who government officials have said were terrorists from the restive Xinjiang region – were randomly stabbing and slashing civilians.
“Put down the knife,” Zhang shouted at the attackers after firing a shot overhead, causing them to turn their deadly blades towards him.
Zhang – the only team member with an automatic rifle – fired another warning shot but the attackers continued to advance, he said.
Leading the pack running towards him was a female assailant wearing a burka-like black mask. When she was almost upon him Zhang shot her.
“The closest one to me was less than two metres [away]. If I hesitated for one more second, I would be dead now,” Zhang said.
The other four assailants did not back down, however.
“I didn’t have time to think, I shot them as fast as I could,” said Zhang. “After I shot all five, the first one, also the nearest to me, stood up again and threw a knife at me. Luckily I tilted my head.”
The entire attack at the railway station lasted for about 25 minutes, leaving 33 dead and more than 140 injured, including several policemen.
Xinhua reported that the thugs – eight in total – may have received training beforehand, as they appeared to be expert at hacking people down on the spot. Chaos and crowds left defenceless civilians struggling to fin an escape route.
Blood is seen on the ground outside after a knife attack at Kunming railway station. Photo: Reuters
The SWAT leader, whose team is under the Kunming Public Security Bureau’s Guandu substation, said Saturday’s attack was his first real crisis operation. He said the experience would stay with him for the rest of his life.
“I didn’t have time to be scared. Everything was counted in seconds, from me getting out of the car to shooting. If I had thought twice and didn’t take down the terrorists, more civilians would be injured or killed,” said Zhang.
State-run broadcaster CCTV aired the interview with Zhang nationwide. The other three SWAT members have yet to come forward with their accounts.
“I think being a police officer is a very noble profession. Wherever the danger is, once the civilians need us to help, to crack down terror, we need to stay in the front lines,” Zhang said.
Official mainland reports said five of the terrorists were shot at the scene, four fatally with one wounded and captured.
Three more suspects have since been detained, the government said last night.
The alleged mastermind behind the attack has was identified as Abdurehim Kurban, but it was not clear if he was among the dead or those arrested.