Chinese state media are reporting those who carried out last week's deadly knife attack at a train station in a southwest region had been trying to leave the country to carry out a holy war.
Beijing has blamed militants from the far northwest region of Xinjiang for the Saturday attack, during which masked men dressed in black and armed with long knives killed 29 people and wounded 140.
Mainly Muslim Uighurs complain of persecution by the state in Xinjiang, but the city of Kunming, where the attack took place, is about 1,500 kilometers away from the western region.
On Wednesday, Yunnan Communist Party chief Qin Guangrong said the eight suspects wanted to join a global jihad overseas, but were unable to leave the country by way of Yunnan or southern Guangdong Province.
Qin said when the suspects discovered they could not leave, they decided to carry out an attack on the Chinese mainland. He did not comment on their alleged preferred attack location or their motivation.
Qin's comments were reported in the Xinhua news agency and other state-run media. Some of the media outlets that originally carried the story later deleted it from their websites. There has been no comment from higher level officials.
Chinese authorities shot and killed four of the suspected attackers. Four others remain in custody. Until now, the government has released very little information about their identity or even evidence that they are Uighurs.
Beijing blames Uighur separatists for being behind occasional attacks that are generally aimed at security forces in Xinjiang. However, the Kunming attack stands out from the usual unrest not only for its brutality, but also because it targeted civilians.
Many have been skeptical about the government's claims because of what they see as Beijing's secrecy and instinctive tendency to blame Uighurs for such unrest.
Exiled Uighur activists say much of the violence is provoked by heavy-handed policing. They say it is motivated by severe restrictions placed on Uighur religious life and by the rapid influx of majority ethnic Han Chinese who receive preferential treatment.