China says terrorists from Xinjiang hiding in Pakistan
By Wajahat Ali
URUMQI: Some terrorists from the Chinese province of Xinjiang are hiding in Lahore and Rawalpindi, Chinese Deputy Director of Public Security Ma Mingyue said here on Friday. Talking to a group of visiting journalists from Pakistan, Mr Mingyue claimed that members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) have mixed up with the Chinese community in the two Pakistani cities.
Asked how these terrorists operated, Mr Mingyue said they were simply being a “bad influence” on people visiting Pakistan from Xinjiang.
“The terrorist organisation itself is not based in Pakistan,” he explained. “But some of its members are present in these two cities.” The ETIM is one of the more extreme groups founded by Uighurs, the Turkic-speaking ethnic majority in Xinjiang, seeking an independent state called East Turkestan.
The organisation is also suspected of being an Al Qaeda affiliate. It was labelled a terrorist organisation by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on August 26, 2002.
Mr Mingyue quoted the example of Hassan Mahsun to substantiate his claim. Mahsun, accused by the Chinese government of bombing a building in Kashgar on June 17, 1996, allegedly escaped to Pakistan using a fake passport and stayed there with the people of Xinjiang before being introduced to Osama Bin Laden.
He decided to move to Afghanistan where he remained in a terrorist training camp. Later, he was “bumped off by the Pakistani police”. When asked if the government of China had communicated with the Pakistani authorities about these people, Mr Mingyue said, “The law enforcement agencies are striving to trace these people in Pakistan”. It may be recalled that some Chinese technicians were recently targetted by terrorists at Gawadar. It is not clear as yet who carried out the attack.
Meanwhile, the United States has blamed China for using the “war on terror” as a pretext to suppress political dissent in Xinjiang. Some US newspapers claim that China has beefed up military security in the region, detaining several suspected militants. Some human rights groups have also voiced concern about these developments, pointing out that the US characterisation of the ETIM as a terrorist group has given the Chinese a free hand to repress Uighurs.
However, the Chinese claim the seperatists have “conceptual affinity” with Al Qaeda. “They want to establish a Caliphate by splitting Xinjiang from the motherland [China].”
The provincial authorities also claim that the separatists have killed 162 people between 1992 and 2001. The Xinjiang Uygar Autonomous Region (called Xinjiang for short) is located in the northwest of China and the hinterland of the Eurasian Continent. It is China’s largest province that borders on eight countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. Its provincial administration allows freedom of religious belief, a concept that is also enshrined in the constitution of the country.