21 October 2016
Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that China is also a victim of terrorism. Photo: Reuters
Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed that China is also a victim of terrorism. Photo: Reuters

War on terror should include Islamists in Xinjiang: Beijing

The struggle against Islamist militants in China’s violence-prone Xinjiang region should become an “important part” of the world’s war on terror, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, following the attacks in Paris.

Hundreds of people have died in the unrest in Xinjiang, home to the mostly Muslim Uyghur people, and other parts of China over the past three years, Reuters said.

Beijing has blamed the violence on Islamist militants, led by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group it says has ties to al Qaeda.

More recently China has reported that some Uyghurs have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with Islamic State and other groups.

Speaking in Turkey on Sunday on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Wang called on the international community to form a “united front to combat terrorism” in the aftermath of Paris attacks, state news agency Xinhua said on Monday.

“The UN’s leading role should be brought into full play to combat terrorism, and a united front in this regard should be formed,” Wang said.

“China is also a victim of terrorism, and cracking down on ETIM should become an important part of the international fight against terrorism,” he added.

Both the United Nations and Washington placed ETIM on lists of terror organizations after the attacks in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Many foreign experts doubt that ETIM exists as the coherent group China portrays.

Rights groups and exiles say the violence stems from widespread resentment among Uyghurs at Chinese controls on their religion and culture rather than an organized militant group.

Xinhua pointed out that ETIM had claimed responsibility for three recent attacks, including a fatal vehicle crash in 2013 in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in which five died.

Chinese state media has already sought to link China’s own “war on terror” with the Paris attacks.

Over the weekend, pictures appeared on the microblogs of state-run newspapers showing Chinese armed police supposedly on a mission to root out militants in Xinjiang, pictures put out to coincide with what happened in France.

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