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News Update
06-09-05, 17:00
Separatists said carry out China attacks

CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China - Muslim separatists in western China have carried out 260 attacks in the past decade, killing 160 people and injuring 440, state media reported Tuesday in a rare disclosure.

The figures from Zhao Yongchen, a top anti-terrorism official, are among the few specifics ever given by China about its campaign to rid the western Xinjiang region of separatists fighting for an independent state of "East Turkistan."

Zhao, deputy director of the Public Security Ministry's Anti-Terrorism Bureau, said attacks and killings came both inside and outside of China, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

One such group, the East Turkistan Liberation Organization, carried out a March 2003 attack on a bus in neighboring Kyrgyzstan in which 21 people were killed, Zhao was quoted as saying. He gave no other examples and it was not possible to independently verify the figures of the claim of attack.

Xinjiang separatist groups "not only threaten China, but security and stability in the entire region," the state-run newspaper Oriental Morning Post quoted Zhao as saying.

China has long claimed that militants among the region's dominant ethnic Uighurs are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims with a language and culture distinct from the majority Chinese.

Critics accuse Beijing of using claims of terrorism as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Uighur identity. Chinese troops occupied Xinjiang at the end of the communist revolution in 1949, shipping in millions of Chinese migrants and interfering heavily in Uighur religious affairs.

In an address to an international law conference Monday in Beijing, Zhao lashed out at such criticism.

"Any form of terrorism is hazardous to the international community, and no country, party or individual group should take double standards based on political or other selfish intentions while dealing with terrorism," Xinhua quoted Zhao as saying.

He said victims of the violence included low-level government and Communist Party officials as well as bystanders and religious leaders.

Zhao's comments contrasted sharply with those of other government officials in Xinjiang, who typically claim the region has been largely free of separatist violence since the 1990-2001 period, when 162 government and religious figures were killed in bombings and assassinations.

Foreign experts say separatist violence appears to be scattered attacks by individuals, with no sign of a major organized campaign.

However, Zhao repeated China's accusations that the independence activists were linked to international Muslim terror groups such as Afghanistan's Taliban, al-Qaida, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

China has provided little support for such claims, although about 20 Uighurs captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan are believed to be in detention at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Although most have been determined not to be a threat, the Bush administration has refused to send them back to China out of fear they might face persecution there.



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