China on Monday blamed 'religious extremists' trained in jihadi terror camps in Pakistan for executing bold weekend attacks in Xinjiang that left 11 dead, including five suspects gunned down by the police.
Pakistan quickly released a statement deploring terrorism and assuring China of ‘full cooperation’ against the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). The ETIM, which is demanding independence for China’s Muslim Uighur minority, is said to have links with al Qaeda camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan along the borders of Xinjiang.
The head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, General Shuja Pasha, is in Beijing and the Uighur terror issues will figure prominently in his talks with this Chinese counterparts.
China has blamed several attacks in the last three years on ETIM separatists, but it is unusual for its leadership to publicly link a terror attack to Pakistan, a country that Beijing calls “an all-weather ally” and is rarely criticised openly.
“The heads of the group learned the skills of making explosives and firearms in overseas camps of the terrorist groups East Turkestan Islamic Movement in Pakistan before entering Xinjiang to organise terrorist activities,’’ said the Kashgar government. It said the captured suspects admitted to working under the command of leaders trained in Pakistan.
This is the second time in a month that Xinjiang authorities blamed overseas terrorists for striking the province. Pakistani officials said General Pasha was not in China in connection with the attacks but had instead gone there to explore further cooperation. A report in Pakistan’s Express Tribune said General Pasha’s visit comes just weeks after a trip by another senior Pakistani military commander to China.
Last month Lieutenant General Wahid Arshad, Chief of General Staff, undertook a week-long trip to China. The ISI has refused to confirm or deny the visit.
“I think the Chinese authorities have evidence that terrorists infiltrate Xinjiang through the Pakistan side,’’ South Asia strategist Zhao Gancheng at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies told HT.
“Chinese authorities and Pakistan have consulted closely on this issue.”
“We are trying to tell the international community that we know the situation,’’ said Zhao, referring to the Kashgar statement. "Chinese authorities will try all means to stop this (attacks) but I don’t think China will send troops into Pakistan to strike against ETIM."
Pakistani security analyst Ayesha Siddiqa said the accusations by China, "are nothing new but only this time it has been made public."
Xinhua said five militants on a ‘killing rampage’ in a Kashgar restaurant were shot dead on Sunday after they killed six civilians and injured 15 including a policeman.
Separate knifing attacks and blasts in Kashgar killed at least seven on the weekend. This ancient Silk Road outpost and homeland of the Turkic-speaking Uighurs who are now a minority in Xinjiang, has been the target of suspected ETIM attacks since mid-2008.