By Hannah Beech
March 6, 2014

A Shocked China Restores Order After A Deadly Rampage

It’s been dubbed China’s 9/11. On March 1–now 3-01 in local parlance–assailants brandishing daggers, machetes and cleavers fanned out through a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming, slashing anyone in their path. By the time their stabbing rampage ended, the attackers had killed 29 people and injured more than 140 others. Police blamed the massacre on separatists from the northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to the Uighur ethnic minority.

Just two days after the incident, state media said the Kunming case was closed. A gang of eight–six men and two women–had unleashed the carnage. Four were shot dead at the scene; the others were captured. The Chinese security state may not have been able to prevent a terrorist attack in a pleasant provincial capital, but it does know how to restore order. State media reported that shops around the railway station had reopened. The station too was operating normally. “Serious violent terrorist case successfully solved,” said Xinhua, the Chinese news agency that acts as the government’s mouthpiece.

Yet ordinary Chinese people, who flocked to social media to grieve in the aftermath of the attack, were left with questions unanswered by the censored local media. (Chinese journalists were initially instructed not to publish their own reporting and to use only stories provided by Xinhua.) Why Kunming? What motivated the Uighur attackers? Was it separatist sentiment, radical Islam or a toxic melding of the two?

Over the past few years, Xinjiang has endured numerous bloody clashes between Uighurs–a Turkic minority that claims two short-lived republics among evidence of its right not to be ruled by China–and Han, China’s predominant ethnic group. At least 100 people perished in 2013 alone. With each violent outbreak, the narratives have diverged. Was the Chinese state using a fight against terrorism to justify its enduring repression of Uighurs? Or was Beijing simply dealing with cold-blooded insurgents no different from those in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Now the violence has metastasized beyond Xinjiang’s borders, bringing a faraway fight into China’s symbolic heart. Last October, police blamed a Uighur suicide attacker, who was accompanied by his wife and mother, for plowing a car through crowds in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, killing two tourists. The Kunming attack proved far bloodier–with innocent passersby slaughtered, perhaps solely for being Chinese.

Chinese state media have lashed out at some Western press outlets for declining to label the March 1 rampage as terrorism. The U.S. embassy in China–which in a statement called the carnage a “horrible and totally meaningless act of violence,” as opposed to outright terrorism–was criticized in a Xinhua op-ed for a “persistent double standard in the global fight against terrorism. Their leniency for the terrorists is sending signals of encouragement to potential attackers.” (A U.S. State Department spokesperson later said the Kunming massacre was indeed “an act of terrorism.”) Meanwhile, a nation unused to such acts continues to mourn. An online campaign declared, “We are all Kunming people.”

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Joint Mission–for Now

AFGHANISTAN

Captain Ryan Yuan of the U.S. Army’s 4th Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, and his Afghan linguist patrol near Kandahar on Feb. 28. With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that the U.S. says it needs in order to maintain a military presence in the country after 2014, President Barack Obama has asked the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. might withdraw all of its forces this year.

DATA

MILITARY SPENDING

The world spent $1.5 trillion on defense last year, according to data firm IHS. Budgets in these countries rose the most compared with 2012:

39% Angola

36% Oman

32% Iraq

29% Bahrain

U.S.

$64,850

Winning bid, by an anonymous buyer, in an online auction for two early editions of Mein Kampf signed by Hitler

Roundup

How the World Is Cleaning Up Its Act

Climbers who scale Mount Everest must return to base camp with 8 kg of trash under new rules aimed at removal of the rubbish accumulated around the peak. Here’s a look at other creative ways people are trying to clear litter around the world:

Robots

In 2009, Japanese scientists built robotic trash cans that can detect rubbish discarded in their vicinity and prompt passersby to properly dispose of the litter

Fishing Boats

The Waste Free Oceans project, launched by the E.U. in 2011, pays fishermen to use special trawl nets to collect waste floating in the sea

Social Media

California-based Litterati asks Instagram users to document litter in their communities, with the aim of using location and other data from the images to improve waste management

Barter

Come April, Canada-based Plastic Bank will set up its first plastic-recycling center in Lima, where the poor in Peru’s capital will be able to trade plastic waste found on the city’s streets for food and clothing

Pigs

Cairo has returned to feeding its organic waste to pigs after a mass cull in 2009–triggered by a swine-flu scare–led to garbage piling up around the Egyptian capital

SOUTH AFRICA

‘You could hear that it was bloodcurdling screams.’

MICHELLE BURGER, a neighbor of the South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, describing what she heard on Feb. 14, 2013, when Pistorius allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp; her testimony came at the opening of Pistorius’ trial on March 3

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PROGRESS

The latest installment of Forbes’ annual list of billionaires featured a record 172 women, up 25% from 2013

GAFFES

Pope Francis accidentally uttered an Italian swear word during his weekly blessing ceremony in St. Peter’s Square

ARCHITECTURE

The wall of a tomb in Pompeii, the ancient city preserved by a volcanic eruption in A.D. 79, collapsed, possibly as a result of heavy rain, prompting concern about the maintenance of the site

VIOLENCE

Rioters frustrated with the slow pace of change stormed the parliament building in Libya and reportedly shot two elected officials

This appears in the March 17, 2014 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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