Members of China’s Muslim Uighur minority that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State are now vowing to return to their homeland and “shed blood like rivers,” according to Al Jazeera, which reported on a ISIL video analyzed by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group.
“China has for years blamed exiled Uighur ‘separatists’ for a series of violent attacks in its western Xinjiang region – the Muslim Uighur homeland – and warned of the potential for them to link up with violent groups,” Al Jazeera reported. “In the video, a Uighur fighter issued the threat against China just before executing an alleged informant.”
“Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say,” the SITE translation of the video said. “We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed.”
“The footage also showed fighters, including heavily-armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other ‘informants,’ ” Al Jazeera’s report said. “Many Muslim Uighurs complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China.”
The article said that Chinese authorities have banned some Muslim practices such a growing beards, wearing headscarves and fasting on Muslim holy days.
“When we see the government involved in a very heavy crackdown, it hasn’t really ever solved the problem, it hasn’t made it go away,” Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute, said in the Al Jazeera report. “In some cases, it has made it worse.”
New America, a U.S.-based think tank, issued a report in July that said Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 to join ISIL.
“The ISIL video also featured images of Chinese riot police guarding mosques, patrolling Uighur markets, and arresting men in what appears to be western China,” Al Jazeera reported. “The Chinese flag is pictured engulfed in flames.”
“China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he had not seen the video but noted that ‘East Turkestan terrorist forces have been posing a severe threat to China’s security,’ and called for international cooperation to combat the threat.
“The video was released on the same day China staged the latest in a series of mass rallies by armed police in Xinjiang meant to indicate Chinese resolve in crushing security threats,” Al Jazeera reported. “More than 10,000 officers gathered Monday in the regional capital, Urumqi – the fourth such show of force this year in Xinjiang.”
“The video appears to be ISIL’s ‘first direct threat’ against China, Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College of Australian National University, told AFP news agency. “It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS,” Clarke said.
“Overseas analysts have up to now expressed doubts about the strength of Uighur fighters, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security,” Al Jazeera reported.