Al-Qaeda link to Uighur separatists?

A Chinese politician from the predominantly Muslim and ethnic Uighur province of Xinkiang in China’s far west has claimed that 18 people killed in a raid on alleged terrorist training camp had links with al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Shi Dagang said 17 other members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) were arrested during the operation in January. “Their terrorists were trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and sent to China by them,” Shi Dagang said during a news conference at China’s annual legislative session in Beijing. He also claimed that more than 1,500 semi-assembled grenades were seized in the raid east of China’s border with Kyrgyzstan.

About two dozen Uighurs were captured by US forces in Afghanistan during the invasion which followed the September 11 attacks. China has demanded their return, but the United States fears they might face persecution there. Five Uighurs were sent to Albania last year so that they did not have to return to China. (AlJazeera, March 9)

International rights groups continue to protest China’s measures against the Uighurs. Most recently, Amnesty International noted that the son of exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer was tried in secret by a Chinese court after being severly beaten while in detention. (Zaman, Turkey, March 9) We have also noted certain cosmetic measures taken by the authorities to appease Uighur nationalist and Islamist sentiment.

See our last post on China and Xinkiang.