Uyghur Muslim radicals located in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang have linked up with the Islamic State terror group, according to a Monday report in China’s state-run Global Times newspaper.
The report states that Uyghur Islamists have joined the Islamic State in order to wage jihad on behalf of the Sunni cause in Iraq and Syria.
China has yet to partake in the US-led initiative against the Islamic State and other radical groups in Iraq and Syria. The only commentary from Beijing thus far has been a plea for US forces to leave the area.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is set to attend a US-held global terrorism summit at the United Nations in New York. “We believe the world should make concerted efforts to combat terrorism and safeguard international peace and stability,” said China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying.
Over the weekend, two were killed and many more wounded after Uyghur Islamists bombed an area in western Xinjiang.
In July, a Chinese official estimated that some 100 Uyghurs had left for the Middle East.
The Uyghur people are a 10-million strong minority ethnic group primarily based in China. Most Uyghurs identify with the tenets of the Sunni Islamic faith. Some are believed to be affiliated with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group known to have worked with Al Qaeda against the United States and coalition forces in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. Over the summer, Uyghur jihadis have killed dozens in attacks on marketplaces, a military barracks, and a train station, to name a few.
Some believe that the Chinese Communist Party has decided to punish Uyghurs as a whole because some within their ethnicity have decided to become radicals.
This week, China sentenced a Uyghur scholar to life in prison for the charge of “separatism”. Xinjiang police previously said that Ilham Tohti had been found spreading “separatist ideas, incite ethnic hatred and advocate Xinjiang independence.” Tohti, who is an economics professor at Minzu UNiversity in Beijing, “maintained that he’d always been trying to preserve ethnic unity not to destroy it,” his lawyer said.
William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International, told CNN: “Ilham Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished through politically motivated charges.”Tohti is a prisoner of conscience and the Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him.”