Jihadist group claims Xinjiang attacks

A Jihadist group has claimed responsibility for recent violence in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, saying in a video message that the attacks, which left up to 40 people dead in two cities, were “revenge” against the Chinese government.

The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), an Islamist group that has carried out several attacks in Xinjiang and other parts of China and has called for the Muslim-majority Western region’s independence, said in a video message it had been behind knife-attacks and blasts in Hotan and Kashgar that left up to 40 people, including at least 20 attackers, dead.

The 10-minute 44-second video message, which showed TIP leader Abdul Shakoor Damla, was the first claim of responsibility for the attacks, which Chinese authorities had blamed on terrorists trained in camps in Pakistan. The United States-based SITE Intelligence Group said the video was made by the TIP, the Associated Press reported.

Asked about the video and the TIP's claims, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said: “I haven’t seen the video you mentioned. Our principled position is that at present, a small handful of terrorist forces with the name of East Turkestan, out of motives of splitting China, are conducting rampant violent terrorist activities within China’s border [and] seriously undermine China’s national unity, and regional peace and stability.”

If the claims are proved accurate, the video will reaffirm Chinese fears of the TIP’s growing presence in neighbouring Pakistan, and also question claims by overseas exiled Uighur groups who had blamed the suppression of protests by police for triggering violence in Hotan.

Xinjiang, which borders Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), has seen unrest and riots between the native Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic group, and Han Chinese migrants. The Chinese government has frequently blamed extremist groups for stirring unrest in the region. Its claims have, however, been questioned by both Uighur scholars and many exile groups, who say the unrest, including the recent attacks, had been carried out by residents aggrieved by rising inequalities and religious restrictions.

In Kashgar, attackers hijacked a truck and rammed it into a group of pedestrians before hacking at Chinese shoppers in a food street with knives. The local government said some of the attackers had trained in terror camps in Pakistan. Kashgar lies close to Xinjiang’s border with PoK.

In a visit to Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, last week, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari sought to address Chinese concerns over the spread of terrorism from across the border, telling the region’s Communist Party Chief Zhang Chunxian his government would work closely with China on fighting terrorism.

The TIP, founded in 1993 by Hotan residents, has been linked to a number of attacks in Xinjiang, including a 2008 attack on a police station in Kashgar. Members of the TIP and the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) it founded were also linked to bus bombings in Kunming, in southwestern Yunnan province, in 2008 and an attempt to blow up a China Southern airlines aircraft.

Chinese scholars say the organisation’s presence has been largely eliminated in China, but camps of several hundred TIP members continue to operate close to Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

In a visit to Beijing last month, Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar did not rule out the presence of TIP or ETIM camps in Pakistan, but said Pakistan “has worked with China regarding the ETIM and is ready to do more.”

"If you are saying, ‘Does it [ETIM] have any base in Pakistan?' We do not know,” she said. “And if there is any such issue, as far as this particular group is concerned, then as I have said clearly, we would like to cooperate further..."

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 4:17:26 AM |

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