ISIS threatens China for first time in new video

Chinese paramilitary forces at an anti-terror rally in Xinjiang. The Uighur homeland has been the site of persistent clashes between the Han and Uighurs, who complain of repression and discrimination. An expert says this video marks the first time Ui
Chinese paramilitary forces at an anti-terror rally in Xinjiang. The Uighur homeland has been the site of persistent clashes between the Han and Uighurs, who complain of repression and discrimination. An expert says this video marks the first time Uighur-speaking militants have claimed ties to ISIS.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING • ISIS militants from China's Uighur ethnic minority have vowed to return home and "shed blood like rivers", according to an extremist-tracking firm. Experts said this marked the first ISIS threat against Chinese targets.

The threat came in a half-hour video released on Monday by an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) division in western Iraq, said the US-based Site Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage.

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

In the video, a Uighur fighter issued the threat against China just before executing an alleged informant.

According to SITE's translation, the militant said: "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."

Many Uighurs, who are traditionally Muslim, complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China.

Dr Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the Australian National University's National Security College, told Agence France-Presse that the video appears to be ISIS' "first direct threat" against China.

"It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS," he added, using another name for ISIS.

The video showed that China is now "very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric", he said. This marks a shift from years past, when it rarely figured in statements by global radical groups. But Dr Clarke said the video could also 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.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said yesterday that he had not seen the video but noted that "East Turkestan terrorist forces have been posing a severe threat to China's security", in reference to Xinjiang militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS threatens China for first time in new video'. Print Edition | Subscribe