From Times Online July 14, 2009
Al-Qaeda vows revenge on China after riots
Jane Macartney in Beijing
Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network has taken up the cause of China’s Muslim Uighur minority with a pledge to attack Chinese workers in northwestern Africa in retaliation for mistreatment by Beijing of its largest Muslim minority.
Al-Qaeda's Algerian-based offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), has issued the call for vengeance, according to the South China Morning Post, which quoted an intelligence report from the London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt.
It would be the first time that bin Laden’s organisation has threatened China or its interests — underlying the risks Beijing faces as it expands its economic investments overseas.
The assessment by Sterling Assynt warned that the threat should be taken seriously and said: “Although AQIM appear to be the first arm of al-Qaeda to officially state they will target Chinese interests, others are likely to follow."
The unrest in China’s westernmost Xinjiang region last week in which 184 people died — most of them Han Chinese killed by Uighurs — has elicited sympathy in much of the Muslim world for the minority Uighurs who face tight controls on their religious practices and discrimination in the workplace.
The report said: “The general situation of China's Muslims has resonated amongst the global jihadist community. There is an increasing amount of chatter . . . among jihadists who claim they want to see action against China. Some of these individuals have been actively seeking information on China's interests in the Muslim world, which they could use for targeting purposes."
The report is based on information from people who have seen the instruction from AQIM, the agency said.
The assessment comes amid rising fears among Western counter-terrorism officials that AQIM turned a deadly new corner in recent weeks, with a string of fatal attacks on foreigners. Its numbers appeared to have been buoyed by the return of its fighters from Iraqi battlefields, US officials have said.
Three weeks ago, AQIM attacked an Algerian security convoy protecting Chinese engineers on a motorway project, killing 24 paramilitary police. While the Chinese were not injured and were not targeted, the assessment notes: "Future attacks of this kind are likely to target security forces and Chinese engineers alike."
Security remains tight in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, after two Uighurs were shot dead by police yesterday and a third wounded in a street fight, the details of which remain unclear. Everyone in the city must now carry their identity card or driving licence or they will be taken away for interrogation.
One prominent Uighur intellectual, Ilham Tohti, an outspoken economist, disappeared from his Beijing home last week and a group of 158 Chinese writers, students and intellectuals have now issued a public appeal for his release.
In recent months Mr Tohti had sharpened his critique of problems in Xinjiang. The appeal said: “Professor Ilham Tohti is a Uighur intellectual who devoted himself to friendship between ethnic groups and eradicating conflicts between them. He should not be taken as a criminal.
The letter, drafted by the leading Chinese author and democracy activist Wang Lixiong, who has written about Xinjiang, said that the website founded by Mr Tohti had become a lively forum for discussion of Uighur life and views and was important for dialogue between Han Chinese and Uighurs.
In: Iraq, News
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