China says it has thwarted Olympic terror attacks

China has cracked a terrorist group plotting to kidnap foreigners during the Beijing Olympics and another that planned to carry out attacks with toxic materials, police said on Thursday.

The announcement follows the revelation by China of two other terror plots last month, but there has been scepticism over whether Beijing is inflating a terror threat to justify tighter control on dissent ahead of the Olympics.

“The violent terrorist group plotted to kidnap foreign journalists, tourists and athletes during the Beijing Olympics and, by creating an international impact, achieve the goal of wrecking the Beijing Olympics,” Ministry of Public Security spokesperson Wu Heping said of the kidnap plot.

Both of the plots announced on Thursday were allegedly uncovered in the vast and remote Xinjiang region in north-west China, which borders Central Asia and has a strong Muslim population of Turkish-speaking ethnic Uighurs.

Wu said they were both orchestrated by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is listed by the United Nations and the United States as a terrorist organisation.

The kidnapping plot, which involved 35 people, was cracked in late March and early April in several areas of Xinjiang, including the regional capital, Urumqi, according to Wu, whose comments were posted on the government’s main website.

In the other case, police in January broke up a group whose leaders were “sent from abroad” by ETIM to stage attacks in Beijing and Shanghai with toxic materials and explosives, he said.

Targets were to include “hotels, government buildings, military bases and other establishments”.

If discovered by police, the plotters were ordered to “perish together”, according to Wu, who added some of its participants had been sent abroad for training, without giving specifics.

Police allegedly seized explosives and Islamic “Jihad” training materials in the raids on both groups.

Wu did not say why the government had waited to release the information.

China maintains it faces an imminent terror threat from ETIM.

However, some Xinjiang experts and exiled Uighurs have said China vastly inflates the threat to tighten its control over the restive and oil-rich region.

Many Uighurs say they have suffered widespread repression under nearly six decades of Chinese rule, and have chafed as Han Chinese flooded into their homeland and dramatically changed their way of life.

Xinjiang officials had said last month that police on January 27 smashed a terrorist group planning an attack on the Beijing Olympics and that a separate bid to blow up a Chinese airliner was foiled in March.

Chinese authorities have refused to publicise evidence relating to either incident, fuelling accusations from rights groups and exiles that the plots had been fabricated by Beijing.

China said two terrorists were killed and 15 captured in the January 27 raid in Urumqi, but residents in the area told an Agence France-Presse journalist who went there last week they had no recollection of any violent clash.

After the September 11 2001 terror attacks, China pressured the United States — which sought Beijing’s help in its so-called “war on terror” — to list ETIM as a terrorist group, Xinjiang experts say.

Critics say China has since abused that listing to justify crackdowns in the region. — AFP

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Dan Martin
Dan Martin
Award-winning storyteller, content marketer and nice guy in pursuit of a purposeful life.

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