Chinese police shot dead three suspected terrorists and have arrested another who were “chanting for Jihad”
The three men, from Xinjiang, were waving long knives and chanting jihadist slogans when police opened fire at a rental home in a downtown area on Monday, the police bureau said.
The officers also arrested a 28-year-old woman, a Uygur from Xinjiang, who was injured in the shooting.
Police said more than 200 armed officers had been sent to the rental home to subdue the four, who were suspected of involvement in a “terrorist case” on June 12. A police statement did not say what the case involved, but said that in the past month 16 people had been arrested in connection with it.
Xinjiang authorities said in May they had broken up 181 terrorist groups over the past year.
The development came as a senior police official said poor intelligence and porous borders with Southeast Asia were hindering China’s efforts to stop the flow of ethnic minority Uygur Muslims heading to Turkey, where many go before joining up with Islamists in Iraq and Syria.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uygurs keen to escape strife in their far western Chinese homeland of Xinjiang have travelled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.
Tong Bishan, a senior police officer who has been helping lead China’s efforts to get the Uygurs back, said that the Uygurs were mostly crossing into Vietnam and Laos.
Tong said he believed the numbers escaping had fallen a lot, but that it was impossible to stop them totally.
“I’ve been to the front lines, to the border with Vietnam, it’s mountains and rivers,” he said. “In some places, the border is a little stream, two or three metres wide. Jump over and on the other side it’s Vietnam. There’s no fence or anything.”
Rights groups and exiles have disputed Beijing’s account of why the Uygurs are leaving, saying the driving cause is a desire to escape discrimination and Beijing’s controls on their culture and religion.
The government denies there is a problem with its treatment of Uygurs, but hundreds of people have died in violence in Xinjiang in the last three years. Uygur militants have been blamed for attacks elsewhere in China.
One Beijing-based diplomatic source said China had been successful at stopping Uygurs from crossing into Central Asia via Kyrgyzstan, after Kyrgyzstan increased security at Beijing’s request. This had led to Uygurs trying to leave via Southeast Asia.
Yet while security at transport hubs like train and bus stations in Xinjiang has been increased, Uygurs are Chinese citizens and have the right to travel anywhere in the country.
Tong said Uygurs, who speak a Turkic language, were using that right to get to border areas.
“You can’t just stop them because they are from Xinjiang or are Uygur.
“You can’t tell from their faces if they are terrorists.”
His remarks underscore the intelligence challenge Beijing faces in Xinjiang, where government officials often do not speak Uygur and where many Uygurs are suspicious of the state.
Mainland media have put the number fighting in the Middle East at about 300.
But a source with ties to the Ministry of Public Security said it estimated 10,000 Uygurs had gone abroad in recent years.
Fan Changlong , vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, said in a recent inspection trip to Xinjiang that the People’s Liberation Army should contribute to social stability in the region, Xinhua reported.
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