Some 300 Chinese nationals are believed to have packed up and joined the jihad in Iraq and Syria on behalf of the Islamic State terror group, according to a report in China’s state-media.
Around 300 Chinese Uyghur nationals from the country’s Xinjiang province have linked up with the local Al Qaeda-affiliated East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and have made their way to Syria through Turkey to link up with the Islamic State, China’s ruling Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily, reported. The report stated: “According to information from various sources, including security officers from Iraq’s Kurdish region, Syria and Lebanon, around 300 Chinese extremists are fighting with ISIS in Iraq and Syria.”
Chinese officials estimated in late September that some 100 Uyghurs had left for the Middle East.
The Uyghur people are a 10-million strong ethnic group predominantly based in China. Most Uyghurs identify with the Sunni sect of Islam, and a small minority have been accused of belonging to the Al Qaeda-affiliated East Turkestan Islamic Movement [ETIM]. ETIM has previously been known to work with Al Qaeda and jihadi outfits against the United States and coalition forces in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area.
Over the past year, Chinese authorities have reported multiple Uyghur Islamist terrorist attacks in which many were killed.
Chinese authorities have utilized a variety of means in attempts to deal with its adherents to militant Islamist ideology. In July, China banned the observation of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In September, the Communist Party promoted ethnic-intermarriage in hopes to combat radicalization, offering incentives to Uyghurs who marry individuals that are Han ethnics.
China has been hesitant to join the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State. But as of late, China has expressed new interest in joining forces to defeat the militant islamist group. The Financial Times reported over the weekend that China has offered to help the Iraqi army with aerial support. The air campaign will reportedly be carried out unilaterally by China, and would not be part of the U.S.-built coalition.