Tag Archives: Islamic Party of East Turkestan

China and Afghanistan Draw Closer On The Roof Of The World

 

wakhan_corridor

CHINA’S BOUNDARY WITH Afghanistan is short; less than 100 kilometres arcing around the end of the Wakhan Corridor, a high mountain valley, seen above, on the ‘roof of the world’ that once provide a narrow imperial buffer between the Russian and British empires. Today it separates Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south and looks on maps like a panhandle of Afghanistan whose territory it is.

Though it is an ancient trade route, spilling into Xinjiang through the Wakhjir Pass, it has long been closed at the Chinese end for fear of the drugs, Uighur separatists or other extremists that might flow through it.

Beijing and Kabul have a 2015 border policing agreement that involves joint patrols, but of late there have been reports that Chinese forces have been operating on the Afghan side of the border.

Map showing location of Wakhan Corridor in AfghanistanThis is a remote part of the world, so supporting accounts are scant. The Defense Ministry has confirmed that counter-terrorism and anti-cross-border crime operations have occurred but has dismissed Central Asian and Indian reports of Chinese military vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan.

Pictures published last November show what look like Chinese-made armoured patrol vehicles inside the Wakhan Corridor. While the vehicles can be made out, what cannot is who is driving them — PLA soldiers, Chinese armed police, Chinese private security firm personnel, or someone else altogether, such as Afghanistan border police.

Relations between the two countries have been gradually growing closer since the establishment of Afghanistan’s National Unity government in 2014.

Afghanistan has agreed not to provide sanctuary for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Uighur separatist group that has been fighting a long and sporadic war for Xinjiang’s independence. For its part, China is training Afghan police and supplying the force with equipment and has pledged $70 billion in military aid as the policing relationship expanded to the defence side (though this hasn’t yet extended to heavy weapons). Bilateral exchanges on both fronts are increasing.

None of this is yet any substitute for Afghanistan’s dependence on the West. However, for Beijing, always worried about insecurity on its Western marches, a close relationship with Kabul will also be essential to the success of One Belt One Road, especially if security concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor worsen.

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More Unrest In Xinjiang As Bomber Hits Aksu

Though July’s anniversary of last year’s ethnic unrest in Urumqi passed with heavily enforced peacefulness, the tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang have not gone away. A bomb blast in Aksu, south west of Urumqi, has killed seven and injured 14, four seriously. According to a local official, a Uiqhur man drove a tricycle carrying the explosive device into a crowd at a busy street intersection.

In June, police said they had broken up a gang behind a number of attacks in Xinjiang over the past couple of years, including an attack in Kashgar in 2008 in which 16 Chinese border police were killed. The 10 men arrested were said to have been planning further attacks. A cache of explosives was seized.

Beijing has been fighting a low level civil war in Xinjing for decades against the  Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking group of Muslims whom they accuse of being ‘separatists’ led by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which is branded a terrorist organization though scapegoat terrorists would be a better description of an group that is a marginal threat at best. Most of the 8 million Uighurs in Xinjiang consider Beijing just uses ETIM as an excuse to crack down those who complain that their culture is being marginalized by Han immigration.

The response to last July’s riots that left nearly 200 dead was tighter security, mass arrests and billions of yuan poured into economic development in the province. The trouble is that the underlying causes of Uighur dissatisfaction can neither be repressed nor bought off.

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China Probes Beijing Olympics Terror Threat

China says it is investigating a claim by a Uighur separatist group, the Turkestan Islamic Party — better known as the Islamic Party of East Turkestan (ETIM) —  that it was behind several recent attacks, the BBC reports.

The include the May 5 Shanghai bus bombing that killed three, another unspecified Shanghai attack, a tractor-bombing of police in Wenzhou on July 17, a bombing of a Guangzhou plastic factory the same day and the bombings of three buses in Kunming on July 21 that killed at least two that we noted here.

The group has released a video in which Commander Seyfullah said there wold be more to come, according to a transcript from the Washington-based Intel Center:  “Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics. We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed.” Commander Seyfullah said the group would focus on the eight cities that were Olympic venues and might use biological weapons.

ETIM is an ethnic Uighur and Muslim separatist group seeking to create an independent state out of heavily Muslim Xinjiang province. It was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on Washington and New York, though somewhat reluctantly and at the lower of its two levels of designation as Washington wants China to recognize the legitimate rights of the Uighur minority.

Authorities have previously denied the explosions were the work of militants but have warned of threats to the Games. We posted about this in March. Earlier this month, officials said they had broken up five terrorist groups in Xinjiang, and that 82 suspected terrorists had been arrested this year for plotting to sabotage the Beijing Games.

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