Members of terror groups in China’s Xinjiang-Uighur region are being sent to Syria to fight the Syrian government, the state-run Global Times reported Monday.
“Leaders from ‘East Turkestan’ terror organizations have organized for members to head for Syria to participate in their quest for jihad,” the newspaper said, quoting Chinese anti-terrorism authorities.
The report said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA), which it said wants independence for the northwest Xinjiang-Uighur region, are linking up with organizations like al-Qaida to fight against the Syrian government.
The Xinjiang-Uighur region, close to the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, has been an ethnically tense area where there has been much violence in recent years. Ethnic unrest has been simmering in the area because the Muslim Uighurs, who are a Turkic-speaking minority in China, resent being ruled by majority Han Chinese.
China says foreign Uighur groups linked to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement are to blame for the trouble in the region. Chinese authorities have said the movement trains in neighboring Pakistan but the World Uighur Congress, based in Stockholm, Sweden, disputes the allegations.
The Global Times quoted a Chinese anti-terrorism official as saying the ETIM is helped by al-Qaida and collects funds through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery. The report said the group “selected and recruited separatists, criminals and terrorists who fled from Xinjiang to receive secret terrorism training.”
After receiving orders from al-Qaida, terrorists from China went to Syria to meet with jihadists already there before forming groups on the frontlines, the official was quoted as saying.
The report said the ETESA, located in Istanbul, Turkey, aims to “educate and train Muslims” in Xinjiang and “set them free” by forming a Muslim state.