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Li Jinmei's husband, Pan Huabing, was badly hurt in the March 1 terror attack. He was injured protecting their 6-year-old daughter from an attacker'­s blow. / Calum MacLeod, USA TODAY

BEIJING - Chinese authorities Monday charged four people with terrorism and murder in the March 1 knife massacre in the southwest city of Kunming, state media announced. The attack at the city's main railway station killed 29 people, injured 143 and marked China's first major exposure to terrorism outside the country's restive northwest.

Four of the five knife-wielding attackers were shot dead at the scene but Kunming city prosecutors charged the one captured alive - a woman - with intentional homicide and taking part in a terrorist group, Xinhua reported. Three other suspects - all men detained a few days later - were charged with intentional homicide, as well as leading and organizing a terrorist group.

A brief statement quoting China's national prosecutor's office did not identify the ethnic group of the four accused but their names resemble those of the Uighur ethnic group from the northwest Xinjiang region that borders Central Asia.

The Chinese government has previously blamed this attack and similar recent incidents on militant Uighurs and religious extremists who seek independence for Xinjiang. Uighur advocates overseas blame the Communist Party's discriminatory and repressive policies for the growing violence.

The charges, which could bring the death penalty, will almost certainly result in guilty verdicts, as China's ruling party controls the courts.

The wife of one victim said Monday she was relieved to learn the prosecution was underway. "I hope they get the death sentence, because they killed so many innocent people," said Li Jinmei, 32, whose husband was badly hurt when he dived in front of their 6-year-old daughter to stop an attacker's blow.

After a veritable news blackout on the state's investigation, the announcement Monday followed a series of recent trials, and death sentences, for other attackers as China implements an anti-terror crackdown prompted in large part by the March 1 assault. Heightened security measures include more armed police in a country where few police carry weapons, regular anti-terror drills and rewards for informants.

In Kunming on Sunday, over 500 police officers and firefighters held anti-terror exercises - code-named Iron Fist.

Li Jinmei said she will never forgive the perpetrators of the attack, or understand why they did it. Her husband, Pan Huabing, one of the last survivors to leave hospital, requires further surgery for his chest wounds and has not resumed work as a welder, she said. The family has returned home to the neighboring province of Guizhou but their daughter has had trouble sleeping and eating since witnessing the massacre and has visited a psychologist.

Although the Yunnan provincial government quickly promised free medical care and compensation for victims in the days after the attack, Li said many relatives struggle to pay bills and have only received minimal compensation. Her family faces medical bills of over $16,000, but have received only $800 to date from China's Red Cross.

"We (feel) helpless sometimes, because nobody listens to us, we don't know when or whether could we get more compensation," she said.

Contributing: Sunny Yang



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: China charges 4 in train station massacre

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