Eighty miles from the point where Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kyrgystan and China meet is about as far as you can get from Beijing. But Kashi, or Kashgar as it is also known, in the west of Xinjiang, is where the terrorist threat to the Olympic games the authorities have repeatedly warned about has materialized.
Two attackers killed 16 police and wounded 16 more on Monday, according to Xinhua. They reportedly drove a truck at a group of 70 police out on a morning jog, lobbed grenades and homemade explosives and attacked with knives. The two attackers, said to be Uighurs in their 20s, have been detained.
They are suspected to have struck in the cause of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) or the Turkestan Islam Party, an amorphous organization which claimed responsibility for bombings in Shanghai and Kunming earlier this year, and promised more attacks on the Games. We posted on that last month in “China Probes Beijing Olympics Terror Threat“.
Beijing has been fighting a low-key if heavy handed war against Muslim Uighur separatists for years and has claimed to have foiled in recent months several Olympics-related plots ETIM was said to be planning. The organization has been internationally recognized as a terrorist organization, if somewhat reluctantly by Western nations concerned about China’s treatment of its western minorities.
Kurexi Maihesuti, vice chairman of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said in Beijing last week that Xinjiang police had uncovered five terrorism groups in the first half of this year, arresting 82 suspected Olympic saboteurs. How much capacity ETIM has to mount a spectacular at or close to an Olympic venue is a moot point, especially with the capital under an intense security lockdown.