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Group linked to Al-Qaida threatens China: Report

world Updated: Jul 18, 2009 12:45 IST

AP
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An offshoot of a secessionist group with ties to al-Qaida is threatening revenge for the deaths of Muslim Uighurs in clashes with Chinese earlier this month, a US group that monitors militant Web sites said.

The Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group said a video released this week by the Turkistan Islamic Party condemned the July 5 violence between Chinese and Uighurs in the Xinjiang region which stemmed from an earlier brawl over the deaths of two Uighurs in southern China.

Seyfullah, commander of the Turkistan Islamic Party, said in the video that the two incidents were examples of "genocide" perpetrated by the Chinese government.

"Know that this Muslim people have men who will take revenge for them," he said in the message, which was issued on jihadist forums on Thursday. It was flagged and translated by SITE a day later. "Soon, the horsemen of Allah will attack you, Allah willing. So lie in wait; indeed, we lie in wait with you."

The July 5 unrest began in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi, where a peaceful protest by Uighur residents turned violent after it was stopped by police. The Uighurs went on a rampage, smashing windows, burning cars and beating Han Chinese, the nation's dominant ethnic group.

Two days later, the Han took to the streets and attacked Uighurs. The government has said the rioting killed 192 people and injured 1,721.

There is no evidence that terrorist or separatist groups were behind the clashes although Beijing has labeled the event the work of the forces of "terrorism, separatism and extremism." Authorities blame Rebiya Kadeer, a prominent exiled Uighur activist, for inciting the unrest. It has not provided evidence to back its claim, and Kadeer, who lives in Washington, has denied the charges.

The initial protest was centered on calls for an investigation into the June 25 deaths of Uighur factory workers killed in a brawl with Chinese in the southern city of Shaoguan. State media reports said only two people died.

In the days that followed, however, graphic photos spread on the Internet purportedly showing at least a half-dozen bodies of Uighurs, with Han Chinese standing over them, arms raised in victory.

Uighurs have said the incident was an example of how little the government cared about them.

Chinese and Western terrorism experts say the Turkistan Islamic Party is an offshoot of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a group fighting to end Chinese rule in Xinjiang, or what some Muslims call East Turkestan.

ETIM was based in Afghanistan before the US invasion and is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. Experts say after its leader was killed in 2003, members reorganized into similar groups, including the Turkistan Islamic Party, and received training from al-Qaida in Pakistan's tribal area abutting Afghanistan.

"Kill the Chinese communists wherever you find them. Capture them and besiege them and lie in wait for in each and every ambush," Seyfullah said in the video, which contains a photo of him in camouflage, his face mostly swathed in white cloth. The accompanying audio lasts four minutes and 17 seconds. "We ask Allah to torture our enemies in general and the Chinese in particular with a special torture," he said.

It is not the first time the Turkistan Islamic Party has threatened China. Days before last year's Beijing Olympics, the group issued videotaped threats warning athletes and spectators "particularly the Muslims" to stay away.

Chinese police played down the threat, saying the explosions were not the work of terrorists. The Olympics passed with no reported terrorism-related incident.