As many had expected, Kyrgyzstan authorities have blamed Uighur militants for last week’s suicide car bombing of China’s embassy in Bishkek.
The attack occurred on August 30th with the car successfully smashing through the embassy’s main gate before exploding in the center of the compound, near to the ambassador’s residence. The suicide bomber was killed in the blast and three Kyrgyz nationals working as security guards at the compound were injured.
Kyrgyzstan’s state security service said yesterday that the suicide bomber was an ethnic Uighur who held a Tajik passport in the name of Zoir Khalilov, a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).
“The investigation established that the terrorist act was ordered by Uygur terrorist groups active in Syria and affiliated to the terrorist organisation the Nusra Front whose emissaries … financed the terrorist action,” Kyrgyz authorities said in a statment, via AFP.
The state security service added that the attack was coordinated through a Kyrgyzstan native living in Turkey with the help of an explosives specialist trained in Syria and holding a Tajik passport. Five suspects accused of being involved in the attack have been arrested while four more are suspected of being in Turkey. Apart from the suicide bomber himself, all the other suspects come from southern Kyrgyzstan.
For some time, China has accused the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as being responsible for increased attacks and tensions in the perennially restive western region of Xinjiang. China claims that the organization carries out terrorist attacks from abroad in order to realize its goal of an independent Xinjiang. Most notably, Beijing blamed ETIM for a series of attacks in Kashgar in 2011 that left 65 dead. China has also adamantly requested that other governments — including the US — label ETIM as a terrorist group.
Still, experts dispute how much ETIM and other exiled Uighurs are to blame for China’s ethnic troubles. In its fight against Uighur separatists, Beijing has killed dozens and jailed hundreds. Critics believe that its heavy-handed crackdown is doing more harm than good, breeding resentment and causing attacks to spread abroad.
Uighurs make up over 40% of the population of Xinjiang, as well as around 1% of neighboring Kygystan’s population. Along with attacks in Xinjiang, Uigur militants have been blamed for a deadly knife attack at the Kunming Railway Station in 2014 and a deadly bombing in Bangkok last year.
China has also been trying to stop the flow of Chinese Muslims to the Middle East, where they can receive training and then return back home to raise jihad. In July, one report put the number of Chinese Muslim fighters who have joined ISIS in Syria at over 100.