World

First ISIS threat against Chinese targets

Uighur militants vow to 'shed blood like rivers'

BEIJING: Fighters from China's Uighur ethnic minority in western Iraq have vowed to return home and "shed blood like rivers", according to a militant-tracking firm, in what experts said marked the first Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threat against Chinese targets.

The threat came in a 30-minute video released on Monday by a division of ISIS in western Iraq and featured militants from China's Uighur ethnic group, said the US-based Site Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage, AFP reported.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday it wanted to work with the international community to fight Uighur militants, following the purported release of the video, Reuters reported.

Spokesman Geng Shuang said he was not aware of the video and had not seen it.

"But one point is very clear. We oppose any form of terrorism and proactively participate in international cooperation to crack down on terrorism," he told a daily news briefing.

China has for years blamed exiled Uighur "separatists" for a series of violent attacks in its western Xinjiang region - the Uighur homeland - and warned of the potential for militants to link up with global militant groups.

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! 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," according to Site's translation.

It appears to be ISIS's "first direct threat" against China, Dr Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College of Australian National University, told AFP.

"It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS," he added, referring to the group by its other name.

The video showed China is now "very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric" Dr Clarke said, marking a shift from years past when it rarely figured in statements by global militant groups.

But he also said it could indicate a possible split among Uighur fighters, as it includes a warning to those fighting with the Al-Qaeda-aligned Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria.

RESOLVE

The video was released the same day that China held the latest in a series of mass rallies of military police in Xinjiang meant to indicate the country's resolve in crushing security threats.

More than 10,000 officers gathered in the region's capital Urumqi - the fourth such rally this year in Xinjiang.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls in the region, beefing up police checkpoints.

In one violence-wracked corner of Xinjiang, authorities are offering rewards of up to 5 million yuan (S$1 million) to those who expose terror plots or "struggle, kill, wound, or subdue" any attackers.

The ISIS video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying and killing other "informants".

It also featured images of Chinese riot police guarding mosques, patrolling Uighur markets and arresting men in what appears to be western China.

Dr Clarke said the hints of a Uighur split could "intensify the threat to China" as it indicates Uighur militants may be able to tap into the capabilities of both ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

A US think-tank said in July that tough Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 Uighers to join ISIS.

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