'Xinjiang militants headed to Syria to take part in civil war'



Beijing: Some of the hardcore Islamic militants from China's troubled Xinjiang province, bordering Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), are heading to Syria and linking up with organisations like al Qaeda to fight against the Syrian government, a media report said Monday.

"Leaders from "East Turkestan" terror organisations have organised for members to head for Syria to participate in their quest for jihad," state-run Global Times quoted Chinese anti-terrorism authorities as saying.

The organisations include the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) that push for "independence" for China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where Uyghur Muslims of Turkic-origin opposed settlements of Hans.

Since May, ETIM and ETESA members have been going to Syria and linking up with organisations like al-Qaeda to fight against the Syrian government, the report said.

"ETIM is being helped by al-Qaeda and they are collecting funds through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery. ETIM selected and recruited separatists, criminals and terrorists who fled from Xinjiang to receive secret terrorism training," an official from the anti-terrorism said.

After receiving orders from al Qaeda, terrorists from China came to Syria to meet with jihadists already on the ground before forming groups on the frontlines, the official said.

ETIM was listed as a terrorism organisation in September 2009 and recognised by the China Ministry of Public Security as one of four "East Turkestan" terrorism organisations.

On April 6, the ministry identified its third batch of "East Turkestan" terrorists with most being affiliated with ETIM.

The headquarters of ETESA, located in Istanbul, are quite extensive and include research, media, social affairs, education and women's affairs departments.

It aims to "educate and train Muslims" in Xinjiang and "set them free" by forming a Muslim state, a Chinese official told the daily.

While the Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Moustapha said the daily that that Syria is not clear about the terrorism activities made by jihadists from the "East Turkestan", he acknowledged that extremists from several countries had been fighting along the Turkish-Syrian border and inside Syria.

"These men came to Syria from Turkey," said Imad, accusing the Turkish government of indulging these activities.

Murat Salim Esenli, the Turkish ambassador to China, denied the accusation, saying Turkey also faces terrorism threats.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of al Qaeda, incited his followers to join in the war against Syria on Saturday after anti-terrorism organs from the UN, the US and Europe expressed their concern that the ongoing Syrian war would help galvanise global terror networks.

PTI