China now has commandos on horseback to tackle terror in Xinjiang
China has unveiled a new anti-terrorist commando unit for Xinjiang trained to carry out operations on horseback, days after a government policy paper said there had been no terror attacks in the province for the past three years.
The elite “Mountain Eagle Commando (MEC)” counter-terror group took part in a drill with military personnel from Kyrgyzstan earlier this month, following which the first-ever report on it was published in one of China’s top state-run newspapers, Cankao Xiaoxi or Reference News – run by China’s official news agency, Xinhua -- on Tuesday.
This is China’s third commando operations unit focused on countering terrorism - the first being Guangzhou-based Snow Leopard unit which was set up in 2002, and the second being Beijing-based Falcon unit operational since 1982.
The name ‘Mountain Eagle’ is from the unit’s designated battlefields: mountains and plateaus. The unit’s insignia is a flying mountain eagle with its beak pointed to the ground and claws open, said the report.
It was established by the Chinese People’s Armed Police (PAP).
The head of the PAP in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) told Cankao Xiaoxi that it was established in the backdrop of military reforms in China.
It was “…born in the context of the military reform, and was born to meet the needs of Xinjiang and even the nation’s anti-terrorist mission. He said that the reason for the use of this new anti-terrorism special force, which was formed shortly before and has never appeared in the public’s view, is to allow them to accept highly difficult, high-intensity,” missions.
The new unit went through “rigorous assessment and evaluation” by higher military authorities following which the commandos have been given the permission to carry out combat missions.
The “horse riding” training course is the “patent” of the new group, the newspaper reported.
“The terrain of the plateau is complex and vehicles find it difficult to pass. Horses are one of the most practical means of transportation. For plateau-mountain combats, the shooting, and training related to horse riding is carried out”.
The first public information about the new commandos comes after China published a new white paper on XUAR, saying there had been no terror attacks in the province since “vocational training camps” were set up there three years ago.
“No terrorist incidents have occurred in Xinjiang for nearly three years since the education and training started, and the overall situation in society continues to be stable,” the white paper published on Friday said.
It was Beijing’s latest defence of its controversial policies in the province where more than a million members of Muslim minority communities are said to be interred in re-education camps as part of pre-emptive measures against terrorism.
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