A militant Islamist group accused by Beijing of separatism has praised a deadly knife and bomb attack at a key railway station in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, warning the Chinese government of more attacks to come.
Without claiming responsibility, the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) congratulated the perpetrators of the April 30 attack at the Xinjiang capital Urumqi’s South Railway Station as President Xi Jinping wrapped up a visit to the restive region.
Abdulheq Damolla, the TIP head, said in a video posted on May 11, that the attack which left three people dead and 79 injured was “good news” and “would fill the suppressed hearts of believers with joy, and fill the apostates and infidels’ hearts with fear.”
He said that the attack was carried out by “our mujahideen brothers” but did not identify any group.
Chinese authorities had blamed "religious extremists" for the raid and, according to state media, two of the dead had detonated bombs they were carrying.
Damolla said that the volunteers of the “jihad act” had “proved their loyalty to Allah with their own blood” and “warmly congratulate[d]” them.
“Brothers, the voluntary act that you carried out took place at the time when the filthy paws of Chinese leader Xi Jinping were stepping onto our motherland East Turkestan, and despite increased security measures,” he said.
“Taking part in this soldierly act in front of the train station exit proves that the Muslims of East Turkestan will never welcome the Chinese immigrant invaders.”
Many Uyghurs refer to Xinjiang as East Turkestan, as the region had come under Chinese control following two short-lived East Turkestan republics in the 1930s and 1940s.
At the conclusion of the video, which shows an unidentified person allegedly assembling a briefcase bomb and footage of the explosion at the Urumqi train station, Damolla calls on “all mujahideen inside of East Turkestan” to continue carrying out similar attacks while studying sophisticated explosive techniques “until the end of the Chinese invasion.”
“This act was a serious signal to the invading Chinese leaders and to the Chinese people—the supporters of their rule,” he said.
No claim of responsibility
The U.S.-based SITE Intelligence Group said in a statement that TIP had “claimed credit” for the explosion at the train station.
RFA’s Uyghur Service repeatedly viewed the video and could find no claims by the TIP of responsibility for the attacks.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Wednesday that the video was “still subject to verification,” adding that terrorist groups were working to “collude” with internal and external forces by any means necessary to launch attacks in Xinjiang or other parts of China, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
“[We] hope that everyone can see clearly the nature and intention of violent terrorist groups and support China's effort to combat terrorist activities, safeguard social order and stability, and protect people's lives and property,” Hua said.
Analysts have expressed doubts about whether TIP, which had threatened attacks ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has the capability to launch actions like the Urumqi train station bombing.
Agence France-Presse quoted Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the Griffith Asia Institute in Brisbane, Australia, as saying that the group may have released the video in a bid to raise its profile.
“The leader of TIP ... has claimed in the past responsibility for a number of other incidents which it seems that the TIP wouldn't actually be capable of doing,” he said.
The TIP’s claims come as China tightens security in a number of cities after several recent deadly incidents in different parts of the country.
Official figures show that about 100 people were believed killed in Xinjiang over the last year—many of them Uyghurs accused by the authorities of terrorism and separatism.
In March, 29 people were killed in an attack blamed on what state media said were knife-wielding terrorists from Xinjiang at a train station in the southwestern city of Kunming.
Following the Urumqi train station attack, Xi called for "decisive actions" against such raids, saying "the battle to combat violence and terrorism will not allow even a moment of slackness,” Xinhua said.
Rights groups and experts say Beijing exaggerates the terrorism threat to take the heat off domestic policies that cause unrest or to justify the authorities' use of force against Uyghurs.
They say they have long suffered ethnic discrimination and oppressive religious controls under Beijing's policies, blaming the problems partly on the influx of Han Chinese into the region.
Reported by RFA’s Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.