Beijing: Downplaying criticism over the deportation of 109 Uighur Muslim immigrants from Xinjiang by Thailand, China has alleged that they were on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join Islamic State terror group and take part in jihad.
Several recruitment gangs were uncovered in Turkey by a Chinese police investigation, It was also discovered that Turkish diplomats in some Southeast Asian countries had facilitated the illegal movement of people, the Ministry of Public Security said.
Of the 109 individuals returned to China this week, 13 had fled China after being implicated in terrorist activities and another two had escaped detention, a statement from the ministry said.
State television showed the hooded and handcuffed immigrants brought in special planes with two policemen escorting each one of them.
According to their accounts, many had been radicalized by materials released by the World Uighur Congress and the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant organisation fighting for the separation of Xinjiang from China, the statement said.
After arriving in Turkey, many, led by the ETIM terrorist group, went on to Syria to join the fighting.
Even those who did not get as far as Syria, were involved in jihadist activities wherever they had stopped, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
China blamed ETIM for host of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang and various parts of China including Beijing and Kunming.
There was unrest among Uighurs, who are Muslims of Turkish origin over the increasing settlements of Han population.
The mass deportation of Uighur immigrants from Thailand has come for strong criticism from the US and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
While the US and Turkey have condemned the move by Thailand to deport more than 100 ethnic Uighur Muslims back to China amid fears that the refugees will be persecuted by Beijing authorities, UNHRC said it was "shocked" by what it called "a flagrant violation of international law."
A large number of radicalised Chinese and the heads of organised gangs have been deported from Southeast Asia this year, Chinese interior ministry statement said.
The recruitment gangs had used religious extremism to encourage people to go to Syria and Iraq to participate in jihad, it said.
Earlier, China had accused Turkish diplomats of providing fake passports to members of the Muslim Uighur minority attempting to flee overseas, saying they then go on to become "cannon fodder" for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.