Xinjiang attackers trained in Pakistan, says China

The Chinese government on Monday blamed a group of extremists trained in terror camps in Pakistan for orchestrating this weekend's violence in the far-western Xinjiang region that left at least 20 people dead.

An initial probe into the violence had found the attackers “had learned skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist group East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in Pakistan”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The revelation of Pakistani links to the weekend's violence, the worst to hit Xinjiang since the riots in July 2009, came as the Pakistani media reported that the chief of Pakistan's ISI, Lieutenant-General Shuja Pasha, had arrived in Beijing on Monday on a “secret visit”.

Asked if the ISI chief was on a visit to Beijing, Pakistan military spokesman Athar Abbas told The Hindu in Islamabad: “Not to my knowledge”.

Officials in Beijing neither confirmed nor denied reports of the ISI chief's trip, though Chinese analysts told The Hindu that the two countries would certainly discuss counterterrorism cooperation in the wake of the Xinjiang attacks.

In Islamabad, the Pakistan Foreign Office said it would “continue to extend its full cooperation and support” to China against the ETIM.

Pakistani officials, however, said no official communication had been received from Beijing over the attacks.

An official in the Xinjiang government's regional information office told The Hindu that an investigation into the involvement of overseas terrorist groups in the attacks was still under way.

The official added that the government was focused on strengthening security arrangements in coming weeks, ahead of a China-Eurasia fair that would be held in Urumqi, Xinjiang's regional capital, on September 1. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is expected to attend the event, though his attendance has not yet been confirmed. Rong Ying, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated to the Foreign Ministry, said cooperation between China and Pakistan on counterterrorism was “one of the priority areas” for the relationship.

“A visit by Lieutenant-General Pasha will provide a very good opportunity to strengthen cooperation in the wake of these terrorist attacks,” he said. “There are terrorist camps, though we are not sure whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan, so it very important for China and other countries in [the] region to strengthen cooperation, particularly if there is any evidence that these activities can be traced to these camps.”

Knife attacks and blasts on Saturday and Sunday rocked the city of Kashgar, which is a few hours' travel from China's border with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) along the Karakoram Highway.

On Sunday, six people were killed and 15, including three policemen, injured, when attackers armed with knives targeted a restaurant in downtown Kashgar. Five of the reported attackers were shot dead by the police. The state-run Global Times newspaper, citing an eyewitness, said the attackers were armed with guns.

Sunday's violence came after eight people were killed and 27 injured on Saturday night when two armed suspects hijacked a truck and rammed pedestrians before attacking them with knives near a street market. Two blasts were also reported on Saturday, near the scene of the attack.

The incidents followed a July 21 attack on a police station in Hotan, also in Xinjiang, which killed at least 18 people. The government initially put the blame on “rioters” but later described the incident as “a severely violent terrorism case”.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 9:47:07 PM |

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