China camp raid 'links to terror'


Jan 9, 2007

China says it has found evidence of links to what it calls "international terrorist organisations" after a raid on an alleged militant camp.

Police killed 18 people in Friday's attack on the base in an autonomous region of Xinjiang in the remote north-west, Chinese officials say.

There has been no independent confirmation of the Chinese claims.

China is waging a campaign against what it calls separatist activities of Xinjiang's Uighur Muslim minority.

However, human rights groups say Beijing is using claims of separatist activity to clamp down on opposition in a region that is strategically important and thought to have large reserves of oil and gas.

Al-Qaeda claims

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the police raid uncovered a large amount of evidence linking alleged militants in Xinjiang to "international terrorist organisations," but gave no details about the information.

On Monday, Ba Yan of the Xinjiang Public Security Department, said the alleged training camp was located on the Pamirs plateau, close to the Afghan and Pakistani borders.

Ms Ba said the camp was run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Etim), a group labelled a terrorist organisation by the United Nations.

Xinjiang is home to eight million Muslim Uighurs, who are ethnic Turks.

Many Uighurs resent the large-scale influx into the region of Han Chinese settlers, and some groups are fighting to establish an independent Islamic nation, leading to periodic violence in the region.

Beijing accuses some groups of links to al-Qaeda, but human rights groups say the Chinese authorities are using the fight against terrorism as a way of cracking down on the independence movement and suppressing religious freedom.