Violence over the past two days left at least 20 dead in Kashgar, the far western city of China’s Xinjiang region, with authorities calling one of the incidents a “premeditated terrorist attack” led by militants trained in Pakistan. Authorities say a “group of terrorists” entered a Kashgar restaurant, knifing the owner, workers and patrons to death before setting fire to the building. Two of those involved were apparently chased down and shot by police in an agricultural area on the outskirts of the city. China’s official news agency Xinhua said an “initial police probe” showed that the leaders of the “religious extremists” involved in the attack were trained in bomb-making and firearms at Pakistan camps of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
Pakistan “will continue to extend its full cooperation and support” to China against the ETIM, Islamabad’s foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement to the media in response to the charges. “Terrorists, extremists and separatists” in Xinjiang “constitute an evil force,” the statement said. (Bloomberg, Aug. 2)
The incident could upset Pakistan’s strategic alliance with Beijing, and may be further indication of a split within Islamabad’s military and intelligence apparatus between pragmatists who merely seek to use jihadists for geopolitical aims and hardliners who actually share their goals. This split is also evidenced by the apparent sheltering of Osama bin Laden and ongoing claims of sponsoring terrorism in India and Kashmir.
An unnamed “dissident group” cited by the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project said that about 100 ethnic Uighurs have been rounded up in Kashgar following the new violence, and that the city is “under a security lockdown.”
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) unequivocally condemns Chinese government policies that have caused another outbreak of violence in East Turkestan. Without a substantial change to policies that discriminate against Uyghurs economically, culturally and politically the prospect of stability in East Turkestan is remote…
I do not support violence. I am saddened that Han Chinese and Uyghurs have lost their lives. At the same time, I cannot blame the Uyghurs who carry out such attacks for they have been pushed to despair by Chinese policies. I condemn the Chinese government for the incident. The Chinese government has created an environment of hopelessness that means it must take responsibility for civilian deaths and injuries caused by their discriminatory policies.
See our last posts on China, the Uighurs and the Great Game for Central Asia.