A man named Hebir Turdi slashed and killed another man, Memet Abla, at the market in Changsha, the official Xinhua News Agency said. As he ran away, Turdi stabbed four more people before he was shot dead by police, it said.
Two of the four people died at the scene and the two others died in a hospital, police said in a statement.
The killings came two weeks after 29 people were killed and 140 others wounded in a knife attack blamed on ethnic Muslim Uighur separatists at the Kunming train station, initially raising concerns that the latest violence was politically motivated. Unlike the Kunming attack, Friday's violence appeared to stem from a personal dispute.
The identity of the food stall owners was not immediately clear. A witness who gave only his surname, Chen, said the stand operators were Uighurs selling flatbread. Online news reports posted early Friday that said they were Uighurs were later removed.
But the violence in Changsha had people on edge even in Chengdu, a city 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) west of it, where dozens of shoppers at a busy mall fled in a panic because of false rumors of a knifing spree that were circulating online, Chengdu police said.
"Because of the incident that happened in Changsha, people started to panic and ran. But actually, nothing happened," a Chengdu police official surnamed Xiang said.
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