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China Executes Three For Attack Blamed On Xinjiang Separatists

Delegate from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 10 March 2015

China has executed three men convicted of masterminding a deadly knife attack the government blamed on separatists from the restive Xinjiang region.

A court in the southwestern city of Kunming said Iskandar Ehet, Turgun Tohtunyaz, and Hasayn Muhammad were executed on March 24 after the Supreme Court upheld their convictions for murder and organizing and leading a terrorist organization.

Five knife-wielding assailants killed 31 people and wounded 141 in an attack outside a train station in Kunming on March 1, 2014.

The government blamed the attack on separatists from Xinjiang, where members of the Muslim Uyghur minority chafe under restrictions on their culture and religion.

Authorities said Ehet, Tohtunyaz, and Muhammad were arrested two days before the attack while attempting to flee China.

The Kunming court said the other five members of the group mounted the attack as planned after losing contact with them.

Four of those suspects were shot dead and the fifth, a pregnant woman, was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

Rights groups have expressed concern about executions and mass-sentencings carried out since an upswing in violence blamed on Xinjiang militants last year.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters