Raid by Chinese Kills 18 At Alleged Terror Camp

By Maureen Fan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 9, 2007

BEIJING, Jan. 9 -- Chinese police said they raided an alleged terrorist camp in western Xinjiang province, killing 18 suspects and arresting 17, the official New China News Agency reported Monday.

The raid took place Friday at a training camp run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, according to Song Hongli, director of the general office of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. One police officer was killed and another was injured in a shootout, Song said.

The camp, located in the Pamir Plateau in south Xinjiang, near the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, bolstered Chinese claims that militants among the Uighur natives of Xinjiang have been leading a violent separatist movement. The banned Islamic group has been fighting for an independent state and is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and China.

Chinese officials say they are particularly worried about terrorism now, as the country undergoes wrenching change and the modernization of a socialist system.

"At present and in the future, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement is still the main terrorist threat China is facing," said Zhao Yongchen, the deputy director of the anti-terrorism department of China's Public Security Ministry, during an international law conference in Beijing. Zhao said the movement has close relations with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and has received training from them.

Rights activists and others accuse Beijing of using terrorism as an excuse to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment. Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims with a separate culture and identity from the majority of Chinese.

In the raid, police seized 22 hand grenades and materials for 1,500 more, plus guns and other explosives, state media said. The group operated several mines to finance its activity, officials said.

In the past decade, terrorists in Xinjiang have conducted more than 260 raids, killing more than 160 people and injuring 440, according to statistics from the Public Security Ministry, the People's Daily reported on its Web site.

Diplomats and outside experts have said much of the region's violence is a result of local infighting and not terrorism.

In May, five Uighurs were flown to Albania after being released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they had been detained. China wanted the men, whom they considered terrorism suspects, returned to China. The Bush administration, citing fears the men would be tortured, instead helped them seek political asylum in Albania after no other countries would accept them. The Chinese Foreign Ministry filed a formal complaint.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company