China Says Uighur Militant's Support of Knife Attack Proves Terror

By Ben Blanchard 20 March 2014

BEIJING — A Uighur militant leaders support of an attack this month in China in which 29 people were knifed to death is clear proof that the world should support China’s fight against terror, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday.

Beijing blamed the stabbings at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming on extremists from China’s far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people.

Abdullah Mansour, leader of the rebel Turkestan Islamic Party, called the March 1 attack an “expensive offer” for China to reconsider its “cruel” policies in Xinjiang, the SITE monitoring service said late on Tuesday, citing a video by the group.

“If the fighters of East Turkestan are now fighting with swords, knives, and mallets, our dear Allah will soon give us opportunities to fight the Chinese using automatic guns,” Mansour said.

“Know that blood of those who are killing themselves is not being spilled for nothing, for their blood will bring tens of more to carry out jihad.”

China says it faces a serious threat from armed groups who seek to establish an independent state called East Turkestan, and has reacted with anger to suggestions its policies are to blame for stoking Uighur resentment and violence.

Mansour told Reuters this month that his fighters were gearing up for retribution against China.

The Turkestan Islamic Party, which China equates with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), keeps a low profile in Pakistan, where it is holed up in a lawless tribal belt.

Unlike the Taliban, it almost never posts videos promoting its activities or ideology. Its exact size is unknown and some experts dispute its ability to orchestrate attacks in China, or that it exists at all as a cohesive group.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that Mansour’s video “exposes the true nature of their terrorist organization” with their open support for the Kunming attack.

“Terrorism is the public enemy of mankind. Cracking down on the ETIM terrorist group is an important part of the international community’s fight against terrorism,” Hong added.

“We hope that the international community can clearly know their true terrorist nature of the TIP which represents ETIM and their serious threat, and understand and support China’s policies against terrorism.”

Xinjiang, resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of central Asia, has been beset by violence for years, blamed by the government on Islamist militants and separatists.

Exiles and many rights groups say the real cause of the unrest is China’s heavy-handed policies including restrictions on Islam and the Uighur people’s culture and language.

The government strongly denies such accusations but it has begun to recognize the economic roots of some of the upheaval, such as the lack of jobs in Uighur areas like rural southern Xinjiang, and it has poured money in to rectify the problem.

In the latest plan, the government wants to increase to one million people the number of people working in Xinjiang’s textile industry by 2020, up from the current 200,000, as a way of drawing unemployed youths away from joining militants, the official China Daily said on Wednesday.

More than 100 people, including several policemen, have been killed in violence in Xinjiang since last April, according to state media reports.