BURNED UP: An owner of a small supermarket carries goods that survived a fire set during the deadly riots in Urumqi in July 2009 (SHA DATI)
Chinese authorities said recently they have broken up a terrorist ring headed by "Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM)" separatists and captured more than 10 members, seizing their self-made explosives.
The terrorist group was involved in a violent attack targeting border police in the western-most city of Kashgar in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, killing 17 people and injuring 15 in 2008, Wu Heping, a spokesman with the Ministry of Public Security (MPS), said on June 24.
Also that year, the group detonated explosives in supermarkets, hotels and government buildings, killing two civilians and injuring two police officers in the region's Kuqa County.
Giving details on the terrorist group, Wu said two ringleaders were among the captured.
Both natives of Xinjiang, they were identified as Abdurixit Ablet, 42, and Imin Semai'er, 33. Police said Abdurixit Ablet was sent by the ETIM separatists from abroad, and Imin Semai'er is an important member of the terrorist forces. The ETIM was listed as a terrorist organization by the UN in 2002.
Police said investigations into an illegal cross border case last year led to the capture of the first three members of the terrorist group.
On December 20, 2009, Chinese police took into custody 20 Chinese people who were expelled from an unidentified neighboring country for illegal entry. After investigations, three were found to be terrorist suspects at large.
The two ringleaders and their aides confessed they had traveled in Xinjiang, Henan, Guangdong and Yunnan where they made preparations for terrorist activities, such as recruiting members, establishing terrorist branches and raising money to purchase materials for producing explosives.
They also confessed they had prepared knives, axes and self-made explosives with the plan to launch a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang's Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu regions from July to October 2009. After the police foiled their plans, some members fled to China's southern provinces of Guangdong and Yunnan, then tried to sneak out of the country.
Police investigations indicate overseas-based "East Turkistan" groups have provided financial aid and a support network for those fleeing China.
"The break-up of the major terrorist ring proves, once again, terrorist groups including the ETIM remain the principal terrorist threat facing China at present," Wu said.
The MPS announcement came just a few days ahead of the one-year anniversary of deadly riots in the regional capital, Urumqi, which left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured. Investigations showed the violence was masterminded by the separatist World Uygur Congress (WUC).
As part of Xinjiang's drive to beef up security measures, the region recruited 5,000 police this year, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Police have been assigned the task of investigating violent crimes, street patrols and dealing with emergencies, the source said, adding that stronger mobile police forces are now operating in Urumqi, Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu.
In Urumqi, police have started drills to deal with emergencies, initiated campaigns to confiscate guns and explosives and launched a crackdown on violent crimes.
A total of 1,000 policemen have been temporarily sent to smaller police stations in Urumqi to increase patrols and improve emergency response times, the city's police bureau chief Wang Mingshan told Xinhua.
During an interview with Phoenix TV, Li Wei, Director of the Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said the No.1 terrorist threat facing China is "East Turkistan" terrorist organizations from overseas, which were involved in both terrorist attacks in 2008.
Li said although all four "Eastern Turkistan" terrorist organizations listed by the MPS in 2003 set up their headquarters overseas, they have never closed their branches in China.
He said these terrorist organizations are involved in separatist activities and are cooperating with each other. Li said one example is that the East Turkistan Information Center has become a propaganda organ of WUC and also helps raise money overseas and solicit and train new members in China.
"Despite the different locations of their headquarters, their common goal is to split China," said Li. "There have been extensive connections between the key members of organizations such as the WUC and the ETIM."
China expects to strengthen cooperation with the international community to combat "East Turkistan" terrorist forces, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
The "three evil forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism have been rampant in the region in recent years, threatening regional security and stability in some of China's provinces, Qin said on June 24.
The international community has reached a consensus on fighting against terrorism, including "East Turkistan" forces.
Over recent years, China has strengthened coordination with relevant countries and organizations through bilateral channels and multilateral frameworks including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. China hopes cooperation in this regard could be further strengthened.
Qin said "East Turkistan" terrorism must be severely cracked down on both inside and outside China.
(Source: Xinhua News Agency)