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Beijing on Friday called for a “crackdown” on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group China claims is a Uyghur terror organization active in eastern Afghanistan, following a deadly terrorist attack at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday.
The United States removed ETIM from its list of designated terrorist organizations last year on the grounds that no evidence indicated that it exists.
“China has urged the Afghan Taliban to fulfill its promises, break off with all terrorist organizations, firmly crack down on the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), and address obstacles that hinder regional security and development cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press conference on August 27, as quoted by China’s state-run Global Times.
Zhao spoke in response to a question from Bloomberg News about the August 26 bombings at Kabul’s airport, which the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror organization claimed responsibility for through a local Afghan affiliate known as Islamic State-Khorasan or ISIS-K.
“The head of the Afghan Taliban made it clear to the Chinese side that the Afghan Taliban will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts that hurt China,” Zhao said in his reply to Bloomberg News, as quoted by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“The Afghan Taliban should earnestly honor its commitment, make a clean break with all terrorist organizations, resolutely fight against the ETIM and clear the way for regional security, stability, development and cooperation,” Zhao added. He referred to clashes between the Taliban terror group — which deposed Kabul’s U.S.-backed government and declared itself the sole ruler of Afghanistan on August 15 — and ISIS-K, which denounced the Taliban’s toppling of Kabul because it has deemed the group too forgiving of a U.S.-led military occupation of Afghanistan, which has been ongoing since late 2001.
ISIS-K has “openly fought with other extremist Islamic organizations, like the Taliban,” in recent years, according to the New York Times.
“ISIS-K has been mostly antagonistic toward the Taliban, and the two groups have fought for turf, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. Since 2017, experts say, ISIS-K has been responsible for roughly 250 clashes with the U.S., Afghan and Pakistani security forces,” the newspaper noted on August 27.
Zhao’s comments on Friday suggest Beijing blames the Taliban for the August 26 bombing of Hamid Karzai International Airport because it has failed to curtail threats from rival terror organizations in Afghanistan, which it vowed to do in a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on July 28.
“The Afghan Taliban will never allow any force to use the Afghan territory to engage in acts detrimental to China,” Taliban spokesman Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told Wang at a formal meeting hosted by China’s Foreign Ministry in Tianjin, China.
Baradar referred to ETIM, which Beijing claims is a terrorist organization comprised of Chinese Uyghurs, an ethnic minority within China that makes up the majority of people in the country’s western Xinjiang region. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accuses ETIM of perpetrating terror attacks on Xinjiang soil and has used this claim as a justification for its genocide of Uyghurs within the territory, which borders Afghanistan.
The largest operation within the genocide so far has been the imprisonment of up to 3 million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mainly Sunni Muslim ethnic minorities such as Kazakhs and Kyrgyz people in a system of state-run concentration camps since about 2017. The concentration camp system has promoted further human rights violations against Xinjiang’s ethnic minority groups, such as forced sterilization and abortions, sexual and physical torture, and slave labor, according to various human rights groups. The U.S. government, along with several other western nations, says this mistreatment constitutes genocide against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz people and holds the Communist Party government accountable for the actions.
While the U.S. government previously recognized ETIM as an official terrorist organization from 2002 to 2020, it delisted the group as such last October, citing a lack of evidence that the group existed. The United Nations (U.N.) continues to recognize ETIM as an official terrorist organization and the Chinese government often cites this designation to legitimize its stance on the group. The U.N. as recently as June claimed ETIM remained “active in Afghanistan in areas including the northeastern province of Badakshan, where China and Afghanistan share a remote 76 km [47-mile-long] border.”