The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a terrorist group known to have links to Pakistan-based outfits and blamed for recent violence in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, has released a video describing last month’s attack in Tiananmen Square as a “jihadi operation” and threatened to carry out further attacks on high-profile targets in the Chinese capital.
The TIP released a video in the Uighur language — spoken by the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority group native to Xinjiang — featuring a speech by leader Abdullah Mansour, who has appeared in a number of similar videos in recent years.
According to the SITE intelligence and monitoring service, Mansour, in the video, termed the October 28, 2013 incident in Tiananmen Square — where a jeep carrying three Uighurs crashed into a crowd and burst into flames killing two tourists and injuring 40 people — “a jihadi operation by holy warriors”.
In an eight-minute video message, Mansour said fighters would broaden their attacks and target high-profile locations in the Chinese capital such as the Great Hall of the People or Parliament building, Reuters quoted the SITE report as saying.
The video lends weight to the Chinese authorities’ claims that the Tiananmen incident was organised by the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) — another name, Chinese analysts say, that the TIP uses.
Some overseas Uighur exiled groups had questioned the description of the incident as a terror attack, and suggested that ordinary Uighur protesters may have been behind the incident.
According to a report by Radio Free Asia, an organisation that is funded by the U.S. State Department and has a wide network of contacts in Xinjiang, the driver of the jeep Usmen Hesen, who was accompanied by his wife and mother, had carried out the attack to avenge a police raid on a mosque in his hometown exactly a year earlier. Hesen and the two passengers died in the crash.
Hamut Turdi, the village chief of Yengi Aymaq in the Akto county in Xinjiang, told RFA it was “highly possible” that Hesen carried out the attack in retaliation for Chinese police tearing down the courtyard of the Pilal mosque on October 28, 2012.
Mansour appeared in a similar video in 2008, in which he claimed credit for at attack in Kashgar, in southern Xinjiang, that left 16 police officers killed, days before the Beijing Olympics. In that attack too, a group of people crashed a jeep, targeting a police station in Kashgar, before detonating grenades.
Pan Zhiping, a terrorism expert at Xinjiang University, told The Hindu in an interview earlier this month that the Tiananmen attack last month bore the signature of the ETIM.
Mr. Pan drew a parallel with Chechen groups, saying that separatist groups that had earlier carried out small-scale attacks in Xinjiang towns were now “trying to maximise their impact” by targeting high-profile targets.