Six years ago, when we first arrived in China, we thought this would be the last place on earth to be hit by Islamic terrorism, but this latest video issued by a certain Turkestan Islamic Party not just changed our minds, it sent a tingle down our spine. In it, a Commander Seyfullah claims credit for the following, according to an AFP report:
- the May 5 Shanghai bus explosion which killed three;
- another Shanghai attack (not sure which one exactly);
- an attack on police in Wenzhou on July 17 using an explosive-laden tractora bombing of a Guangzhou plastic factory on July 17
- and the July 21 bombings of three buses in Kunming and Minshan in Yunnan Province
In the video, Seyfullah said:
“Through this blessed jihad in Yunnan this time, the Turkestan Islamic Party warns China one more time.”
“Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics. We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed.”
Also, in a five page statement supposedly released by Seyfullah on June 27, he said:
“After receiving the order, asking Allah’s continual help in this matter, the military commander has made the order to all brothers and sisters in every corner of the world, to move to the action phase.”
“These brothers and sisters have been waiting for the order and these brothers and sisters are volunteers who would commit suicide bombing when it is time for it.”
“Bomb the Chinese government buildings, military barracks, airplanes, airports, railways, foreigner hotels, entertainment venues, tourist spots and similar places!”
“Set on fire! You are even permitted to use biological weapons this time.”
A Google search for Turkestan Islamic Party turned up zero results, and the party is also not named on the Wikipedia entry on the East Turkestan independence movement, so this could be a newly established group. And as the New Dominion writes [h/t to Global Voices], this group is not to be confused with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
Nevertheless, the Turkestan Islamic Party is likely to be another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkestan (ETIM), a Uyghur-Muslim separatist group according to the global intelligence analysts Stratfor quoted by the AFP report. This group has been designated by both the United States and China as a terrorist group.
The Dominion also raised the following points:
First, why the delay? Why would such an organization carry out these attacks only wait until now to claim ownership of the violence?
Why would China remain silent on such issues even if they had the slightest inkling that East Turkestan terrorists were responsible for the acts? There’s a trend among the government to exploit every opportunity to justify increased Olympics security and crackdowns in restive minority areas, as evidenced by the glowing report released recently on “busting up terrorist cells”, as well as the intense domestic press coverage of incidents with really spurious, if not entirely fabricated links to religious terrorism. One would assume that these bus bombing incidents would also be revealed to the public as the machinations of Muslim terrorists, and thus further justify both iron security at the Olympics and massive crackdowns in Xinjiang – though I also acknowledge the possibility of a face issue, where the CCP is willing to acknowledge the threat itself but not actual instances where terrorists slipped through cracks in the Great Security Wall. It remains a fact, however, that the official government word on both the Kunming and Shanghai bus incidents is that while they definitely weren’t accidents, they aren’t linked to terrorism or the Olympics. Obviously the CCP and Seyfullah can’t both be correct.
Who is Seyfullah? What is the Turkestan Islamic Party? Much scholastic criticism concerning Chinese and American policy towards the East Turkestan Islamic Party (which apparently also goes by Turkestan Islamic Party, which also happens to be another possible name for the successor of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which may or may not have been eradicated) centers around the question of whether or not such an organization even exists on a structurally significant level. I’m willing to wager that if we were actually see this video we could ascertain just from the content whether or not there are genuine links to Uyghur-related unrest or if it is a deliberate but sloppy attempt to agitate, as the last video appeared to be. I would be interested to see what kind of background Seyfullah delivers his statement in front of, what language he speaks in, what kind of attire he wears.
What are the abilities of this shadowy movement? Violence attributed to Uyghurs has been on the decline for the past decade, yet suddenly there’s a Uyghur movement that is capable of striking in places as distant as Wenzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, and Guangzhou? Just as I believe the Chinese government is not beyond attributing Islamic, terroristic motives to secular hooligan gang violence in Urumqi, I wouldn’t put it past international agitators to attempt to weave a pattern between various violent occurrences, a pattern with no real basis in reality.
UPDATE, 7:15pm: Chinese officials have denied the terror group’s claims:
But a public security official in Yunnan province, where Monday’s blasts happened, said no evidence had been found linking the explosions with terrorism, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“We have noticed media reports about the claims, but so far no evidence has been found to indicate the explosions were connected with terrorists and their attacks, or with the Beijing Olympics,” Xinhua quoted the official as saying.
Police in Shanghai also denied the claims, Xinhua said, saying the blast in the city on May 5 had nothing to do with terrorism.
“The blast was indeed deliberate but had nothing to do with terrorist attacks,” Cheng Jiulong, deputy head of the Shanghai police, told Xinhua.
Previously on Shanghaiist
Jihad in China — 5 “Muslim terrorists” shot dead in Urumqi, Xinjiang
Kunming bus blasts ‘man-made, deliberate sabotage’
At least three dead after Shanghai bus explosion
Police seek information on Yangpu bus explosion suspect
Why the Shanghai bus exploded (according to one Hong Kong tabloid with a fabulous graphic team)
AFP: Uighur group claims China bus attacks, threatens Olympics
GoKunming: Kunming bus attacks: Police triple reward as a new clue emerges
The New Dominion: Turkestan Islamic Party Leader Claims Responsibility for Numerous Bus Bombings and Attacks
Global Voices Online: Unheard of ‘Turkestan Islamic Party’ claims recent bombings