By Cal Widdall
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killing of a Chinese woman and her male companion in the northwestern city of Peshwar. A spokesman stated that she was targeted to avenge ‘atrocities’ carried out against their Muslim brothers in Xinjiang. State media reports that 20 were killed in Xinjiang this week, with 7 alleged terrorists and 13 civilians killed during an attack at an outdoor market in the remote town of Yecheng.
Hua Jiang, a 40-year-old student of Beijing university, was on the third day of her vacation in Peshwar when she was gunned down whilst taking pictures in a crowded bazaar. The attackers also killed her companion, Suleman Shams, a Pakistani student reportedly acting as her interpreter.
Extremist attacks are common in Peshwar. After the deaths occurred on Tuesday police officials said that Hua and Shams may have been killed by militants, but no conclusions had been reached yet. They also added that the woman seemed to have been followed since she landed in Peshwar on February 26th.
Officials from Pakistan and China have claimed that Islamist militants in Western China have links to the Pakistani Taliban and other militant organisations based near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. China has even accused one of these groups, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, of carrying out attacks in China and staging training camps for Muslims seeking Xinjiang’s independence.
The Pakistani Taliban’s stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani state, enforcement of their interpretation of sharia and a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. This is not the first time they have carried out ‘retaliation killings’ against foreigners from countries and organisations backing their government.
Pakistan has been the location for several Muslim militant attacks on Chinese nationals in the past decade, including the killing of three men in Peshwar in July 2007. China has maintained strong economic and diplomatic ties and has stood as Pakistan’s most steadfast ally, while also repeatedly calling on the government to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens.
Pakistan’s ambassador to China, Masood Khan, vowed that the attackers would be tracked down.