A US monitoring organization says a new video by Uighur extremists in western China threatens credible terrorist attacks on the Olympic Games, set to start Friday in Beijing. The warning comes just days after a deadly attack, believed to have been launched by Uighur terrorists, that left 16 Chinese police dead.
The New York Times reports that the IntelCenter, a US group monitoring terrorist posts online, said the video, released by a group calling itself the "Turkistan Islamic Party" (TIP), opens with a shot of a burning Olympics logo and an explosion superimposed over an Olympic site.
According to IntelCenter's description, a man holding an assault rifle, who identifies himself as Abdullah Mansour, says in the Uighur language: "We, members of the Turkestan Islamic Party, have declared war against China. We oppose China's occupation of our homeland of East Turkestan, which is a part of the Islamic world."
He warns Muslims not to go to the Games and not to let their children go. "We do not want to see any Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in Allah and his Holy Prophet Muhammad, who believe in the next life and the day of judgment, get hurt by our fire targeted at China," he says.
Bloomberg reports that IntelCenter said the video, which is dated Aug. 1, specifically warns Muslims to avoid taking buses, trains, and planes with China's predominant Han ethnic group. Bloomberg adds that the TIP released a similar video on July 23.
News of the video comes just days after a group of extremists killed 16 Chinese police in an attack in the western city of Kashgar. During the attack Monday, two men drove a truck into the police, who were jogging, and threw explosives into a nearby police barracks. The attackers are suspected to be members of the Uighur community, western China's Islamic minority. The Uighurs, concentrated in Xinjiang Province, are generally unhappy with growing dominance of Han Chinese in Uighur areas and Beijing's restrictions on Uighur religious and social practices.
Italy's AKI reports that there may have been an attack Friday as well, this time in the city of Ili in northwest Xinjiang. AKI writes that, according to Arabic broadcaster al-Jazeera, a large explosion killed nine people, though it was unclear whether the explosion was intentional or accidental. AKI later reported that Chinese officials denied that an explosion had occurred.
"I think what they're doing is they're trying to capitalize on the buildup to the games," said Ben Venzke of the Washington-based IntelCenter, which provides counterterrorism intelligence to U.S. government agencies.
Venzke said Friday that his group believes that based on the militant group's demonstrated ability to conduct bombings "and the apparent opportunity TIP believes the Olympic Games presents in terms of targeting and striking a blow to China, that the threat is credible and should be taken seriously."
He said the release of a five-page written threat, in conjunction with two videos over the last three months by the group "is indicative of an orchestrated campaign designed to fulfill jihadists belief that they should provide warning before launching a significant attack."
"The Kashgar government at all levels has taken a series of measures to prevent and strike down any trouble," said an announcement on the government's website.
"To ensure stability, (authorities) have strengthened controls on non-residents to root out trouble, stepped up controls on key people, religious figures and trouble-making petitioners to stay abreast of things," it said.
The announcement gave no further details and did not specify what "key people" meant. China has already launched a nationwide effort to halt people petitioning the government over various grievances during the Games.
But the problems between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Kashgar run deep, reports The Wall Street Journal. Beijing has promoted a "gold rush" into western China, prompting Han Chinese to relocate into Xinjiang to make their fortunes, but the migration has resulted in a culture clash.
...the Uighurs and the fast-growing population of transplanted Hans occupy what looks like two Kashgars. Ethnic Hans are rarely seen near the city's traditional Uighur bazaar, where the walls are made of mud and blacksmiths pound iron into door hinges and pots. Instead, they shop at a modern market with escalators and a guard who checks handbags for weapons. Visible from the grounds of a 556-year-old mosque in the old city and rising from behind mud structures is a new Ferris wheel, and beyond that a 59-foot-tall statue of Mao Zedong. Feeding suspicions, few speak the other's language.
Uighurs say they are afraid to speak out. To explain why, an unemployed Uighur sitting in a restaurant demonstrates by grabbing his own neck and forcing it near the floor, then putting his hands behind his back as if he were being handcuffed. Another Uighur, a guard at a hospital entrance, describes an often intimidating police presence in the city, but cautions as a Han person approaches, "Don't tell her what I said."
Han people worry that they are surrounded by devout followers of a religion they don't understand well. [Dang Dongming, a Han former soldier now living in Kashgar], for instance, claims he can identify Islamic fundamentalists by their long beards and draped jackets. "When they come close to me, I'm afraid," he says.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the differences even go so far as what time it is. Han Chinese set their clocks according to the national time zone dictated by Beijing, 2,200 miles west of Kashgar, while local Uighurs set their watches two hours earlier to reflect the distance.