Islamic State Video Threatens China With Homegrown Fighters Video appears to show recruits from China’s mostly Muslim Uighur minority threatening to ‘avenge oppression’
An Islamic State video appears to show recruits from China’s Uighur minority threatening to “avenge oppression,” feeding into Beijing’s assertion of a growing jihadist-terror threat.
The half-hour video was released Monday by an Islamic State division in western Iraq, said the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online jihadist activity. Subtitled in both Arabic and Uighur, it shows what SITE says are Uighur fighters on the battlefield, as well as several grisly executions of accused informants.
“Oh you Chinese who [do] not understand what people say!” one of the fighters declares before an execution, according to SITE’s translation. “We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed, Allah permitting.”
Recruitment by Middle East jihadist groups has Beijing on increasingly high alert, particularly in its northwest Xinjiang region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. Leaked Islamic State records show that more than 100 Chinese nationals have joined the group in Syria, according to two recent studies, and Chinese officials say about 300 Uighurs are fighting with the jihadist movement in Syria and Iraq.
China, which has long blamed unrest in Xinjiang on Uighur separatists it says have links with foreign jihadists, has intensified a security crackdown as attacks on government and civilian targets have increased in recent years, including a deadly assault on a government compound in December.
Uighur rights groups say the repression, including restrictions on religious practices, fuels local resentment.
On the same day Islamic State’s video was released, China paraded more than 10,000 armed police and security personnel in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Pictures of the display, which included helicopters and armored vehicles, circulated widely in state media.
“Let violent terrorist gangs and terrorists be buried in the great sea of the people’s war,” said regional Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo said, according to the Xinjiang government’s official news site.
China has been the target of jihadist propaganda efforts before. In 2015, for example, Islamic State published a song in Mandarin calling for China’s Muslims to take up arms and released a video in which an elderly man speaking a Turkic language told of his decision to join the group after decades of oppression in China. That same year came the first known Islamic State execution of a Chinese national.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that he hadn’t seen the latest video, but that Beijing opposes all terrorism.
Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said the threat of terrorism involving Uighurs is “getting worse and globalizing.”
“We’ve had Uighurs showing up more prominently in jihadist organizations around the world,” he said, citing Indonesia as an example.
He said attacks on Chinese targets have grown more sophisticated in recent years, citing a suicide bombing last year targeting China’s Embassy in Kyrgyzstan, which Kyrgyz authorities blamed on Uighur terrorists.
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