Sunday, March 09, 2008

China - Terror plots foiled

Officials give out details at a press conference

Two terrorist attacks have been thwarted by Chinese authorities, Chinese officials have told the state-run media Xinhua News. One of the alleged attacks is said to have targeted the Summer Olympic Games. Chinese authorities say the attacks were to have been carried out by separatists operating out of an autonomous region in northwest China. According to Xinhua, militants who were killed earlier this year in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were planning an attack on the Games, set to begin on August 8th 2008. The autonomous region is home to about 19 million people, most of whom are Muslims and other minorities. Many of them oppose Beijing's rule.

Also Sunday, another Chinese official told Xinhua that a China Southern Airlines plane was forced to land because "some people were attempting to create an air disaster." The flight had taken off from Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Militants had failed to hijack the plane after being “foiled by the flight crew” according to reports. Wang Lequan, chief of the Xinjiang regional committee of the Communist Party of China, said the government was prepared to strike against the "three evil forces" in the region whom he referred to as terrorists, separatists and extremists. "We are prepared to strike them when the evil forces are planning their activities," he told Xinhua.

Wang said the group had been trained by and was following the orders of a Uighur separatist group based in Pakistan and Afghanistan called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, or ETIM. The group has been labelled a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the United States. East Turkestan is another name for Xinjiang. Chinese forces reported raiding an ETIM training camp last year and killing 18 militants allegedly linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Chinese authorities have for years been battling a low-intensity separatist movement among Xinjiang's Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim people who are culturally and ethnically distinct from China's Han majority [BBC / CNN / Fox News].

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