Xinjiang militants in Syria, China sounds 'high alert'

Xinjiang militants in Syria, China sounds 'high alert'

China today asked the international community to be on "high alert" and step up cooperation to fight against terrorism saying that Islamic militants from its troubled northwest province of Xinjiang, bordering PoK, were in Syria and battling government forces there.

Confirming reports that the militants from Xinjiang, where China is grappling with ethnic unrest between Muslim Uyghur population and Han Chinese settlers, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said that the Xinjiang militants were "colluding" with international
terrorist groups.

"China opposes all forms of terrorism. The East Turkistan terrorist forces lead by the East Turkistan Islamic movement, (active in Xinjiang) have been colluding with international terrorist organisation," Hong told a media briefing without directly naming al Qaeda.

"It not only seriously undermines China's national security but also a threat to other countries peace and stability. The international community should stay on high alert against them and step up cooperation the joint fight against all terrorist organisations including them," he said.

Earlier state-run Global Times quoted unidentified Chinese anti-terrorism officials as saying that leaders from "East Turkestan" terror organisations sending their members to Syria to participate in their quest for jihad.

China backs the embattled Assad regime in Syria even though it established contacts with the rebel groups.

East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) were fighting for "independence" for China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Uyghur Muslims of Turkik origin opposed settlements of Han Chinese.

Since May, ETIM and ETESA members have been going to Syria and linking up with organisations like al-Qaeda to fight against the Syrian government, the report said.

"ETIM is being helped by al-Qaeda and they are collecting funds through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery. ETIM selected and recruited separatists, criminals and terrorists who fled from Xinjiang to receive secret terrorism training," anti-terrorism officials said.

After receiving orders from al-Qaeda, terrorists from China came to Syria to meet with jihadists already on the ground before forming groups on the frontlines, the official said.
The ETESA aims to "educate and train Muslims" in Xinjiang and "set them free" by forming a Muslim state, a Chinese official told the daily.

While the Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha, told the daily that Syria is not clear about the terrorism activities made by jihadists from the "East Turkestan", he said extremists from several countries had been fighting along the Turkish-Syrian border and inside Syria.

"These men came to Syria from Turkey," said Imad, accusing the Turkish government of indulging these activities.

Murat Salim Esenli, the Turkish ambassador to China, denied the accusation, saying Turkey also faces terrorism threats.

The news came after Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of al-Qaeda, incited his followers to join in the war against Syria on Saturday after anti-terrorism organs from the UN, the US and Europe expressed their concern that the ongoing Syrian war would help galvanise global terror networks.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox