So China has Islamic Terrorists Now?

Last week I wrote a post on Lost Laowai wondering about how China defined terrorism. I wondered why China wasn’t declaring the Kuming bus bombings a terrorist act even if it was done by someone with a local grievance. When I wrote it I was just thinking out loud, but then last night I discovered this post on Shanghaiist. It looks like the Turkestan Islamic Party, a terror group (if it’s really a political party would be illegal in China) claimed responsibility in a Youtube video for last week’s Kuming bus bombing as well as the bus bombing incident in Shanghai in May.

Maybe I am being to skeptical about this, but like the blogger behind The New Dominion I don’t really buy it. Why is this group making a claim to the Shanghai bus bombing two months after it happened? The police also said that while both the events in Kuming and Shanghai were intentional, they didn’t appear to be terrorist acts. Nothing has been reported about the TIP’s video in official state media — I’ve seen reports of it on Hong Kong TV though (I haven’t checked CNN or the BBC).

The second question I have is who is the audience this group is trying to reach? The two Youtube videos I’ve seen from the group are all in Arabic Uyghur without Chinese or English subtitles. The fact that there is no Chinese subtitles in the videos make me think that these videos are aimed at people in the Middle East. I don’t if the group’s goal is to get funding for their cause or to reach out to other militant groups such as Al Qaeda. But I don’t think the videos are for Chinese viewers.

I haven’t heard that these videos were posted on Chinese websites. I am sure if they were site censors would probably take them home, but again the group went to Youtube an international site (the videos appeared on the Japanese version) not a Chinese one. So is this group trying to terrorize Chinese or the world? I would assume it’s the Chinese, but the way they are going about it make me doubt the group’s aims. Either that or their media relations plan is screwy.

I’m going to keep watching and blogging on this.

J.

Update: The New Dominion is reporting that the video is in Uyghur not Arabic (see the comment below). Their site is also saying the video has been reported by Xinhua and AFP.

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5 Comments

Filed under China Society

5 responses to “So China has Islamic Terrorists Now?

  1. Hi there, thanks for linking us! I just want to point out that we took a look at the videos as well, and the language being spoken is not Arabic, but Uyghur. I still believe that the claims are false, but with the intended audience being Uyghurs (both in Xinjiang and the diaspora) I interpret the goal of the video to be agitation and intimidation.

  2. oneeyedpanda

    Thanks for reading the post and the comment. I’ve corrected the error. I’ll definitely be reading you guys as part of my search for updates on this story.

    J.

  3. J.
    Actually, China has had an Islamic jihadi movement for some time in the form of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). They have been carrying out attacks since the 1990s. China does a good job at keeping these things quite unless it benefits them (as in when they got the US to put the ETIM on the Terrorist Group Exclusion List). Here are some good links:
    http://www.cdi.org/terrorism/etim.cfm
    http://www.cfr.org/publication/9179/
    http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2008/03/mil-080312-cfr01.htm
    http://www.isn.ethz.ch/news/sw/details.cfm?ID=16272
    At this time I am not sure if the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) is actually the ETIM with a new name. I have seen where the TIP name has been used by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). It would make sense though that TIP in this instance is the ETIM because there has been a very close relationship between the ETIM and the IMU. Many Uyghurs have been found in the ranks of the IMU. Also, the stated goals of the IMU and the ETIM are to unite Central Asia (including Uyghurstan or Xinjiang) into an Islamic state called Turkestan. It may very well be that the IMU and the ETIM have merged into the TIP but are still compartmentalized into local groups that can work easier in their own localities. Given the IMU’s close relationship with al-Qaeda, they most likely have learned this compartmentalized strategy from the bin Laden group and are structuring themselves in a similar way.

  4. oneeyedpanda

    Thanks for the comment Torry. I’d heard about the ETIM before but my understanding is that the group has only carried out attacks in Xinjiang not in other provinces.

    J.

  5. Yes there is no definitive evidence that the ETIM has carried out attacks in other provinces in China outside of Xinjiang. This could be due to either good security measures by the Chinese government or they have done a good job of covering it up. There have been many bombings in China that get little press in the West.
    That being said, the ETIM has targeted ethnic Chinese people in Xinjiang, especially government officials. Also, the ETIM has operated internationally.
    They were blamed for the murder of a Chinese diplomat in Kyrgyzstan in 2002 and two Uyghurs were deported to China from Kyrgyzstan after being accused of planning to bomb the US embassy.
    What is really interesting is this new threat in the form of the TIP. The two biggest questions I have are: Is the TIP actually the ETIM? and Does the TIP have a relationship with the IMU which is also calling itself the TIP now? Answering those questions would go a long way in seeing if this video is just a well timed play for publicity or if a major threat could come from this group.

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