China has made a public appeal to the United States for help in controlling radical Islamic movements in the country’s Xinjiang region, saying that the Islamist groups are connected to the global jihadist network that seek to carry out attacks in the West.
Islamic terrorists from China’s Uyghur minority have been responsible for several terrorist attacks over the past years, resulting in the deaths of hundreds. The Uyghur radicals are said to be members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a multi-national Islamist outfit that seeks an Islamic state in Xinjiang.
Some have even been trained by jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, “with the intent of returning to China to wage holy war,” Reuters reported on Wednesday.
Many have even joined the Islamic State terror group, according to Chinese state-media, which estimated that last year 100 Uyghurs had left for the Middle East.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping met late Tuesday with Tina Kaidanow, who serves as Ambassador-At-Large for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism.
“China stressed the serious threat of ETIM and other East Turkestan terror organizations to China, the United States and the international community,” said a Chinese Foreign ministry statement, which “requested that the United States vigorously support and coordinate with China in combating the efforts of East Turkestan terrorism forces.”
ETIM has in the past aided Al Qaeda against the United States and coalition forces in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.
The two sides agreed to coordinate on intelligence gathering and work together on terrorism-related threats, China’s Foreign Ministry said.
Chinese authorities have taken several approaches in attempts to roll back the influence of its Islamic radical movements. Last year, authorities banned observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, while also promoting intermarriage between Uyghurs and Han Chinese citizens in an attempt to better integrate the Islamic group into Chinese society.
The Uyghur people predominantly reside in Xinjiang, with some 10-million in the region identifying with the ethnic minority group. Most Uyghurs identify as Sunni Muslims.
Uyghur leaders continue to insist that China (and its state-media) is overstating the threat posed by the radicals within its ethnic minority group. They claim that China is flagging the group as Islamist terrorists as an excuse to further crackdown on the Uyghurs and infringe upon their personal liberties.