Uighur ISIS fighters have issued a chilling warning to China, promising to “shed blood like rivers” when they return home to Xinjiang.
The 30-minute long video starring Uighur fighters training in Western Iraq was released by ISIS on Monday. Along with an image of the Chinese flag engulfed in flames, it also includes images of Chinese police guarding mosques, patrolling markets and arresting men in what appears to be far-western China, according to the US-based SITE Intelligence Group which analyzed the footage.
“Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say. We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed,” one Uighur fighter vowed in the video before executing an alleged informant.
Experts told Al Jazeera that the video is the first direct threat that ISIS has made against China. It was released on the same day that more than 10,000 Chinese troops marched through the streets of Urumqi in a grandiose show of force against terrorism in the restive Xinjiang region.
China has blamed Uighur separatist groups for regular episodes of violence in the region, sometimes cracking down on militants with deadly force. However, in recent years, rather than contain the conflict, China’s efforts seem to have caused the movement to spread outside of the region’s borders to Beijing, Kunming, Bangkok and Kyrgyzstan. Meanwhile, Uighurs have complained about a number of measures that they say discriminate against their religion by cracking down on religious holidays, customs, and even long beards. In 2015, Uighur shopkeepers were urged to sell alcohol and cigarettes, or else be shut down.
International observers have blamed these kind of hard-line policies for driving more Uighurs to the Islamic State. A July 2016 report estimated that over 100 Chinese Muslim fighters had joined ISIS in Syria, signaling that the terrorist group’s Chinese propaganda efforts may actually be working.
In December 2015, ISIS released a catchy tune in Mandarin calling Chinese Muslims to jihad. Earlier that year, the terrorist organization also released a propaganda video starring their “oldest fighter,” an 80-year-old Uighur grandfather who described his decision to leave China following decades of oppression. The same video also shows Uighur children dressed in military garb being interviewed about joining the Islamic State.
Last November, to prevent more Uighurs from fleeing abroad, China even went so far as to demand that all residents of Xinjiang hand in their passports to local police stations for “examination and management.” Earlier this month, all residents of the sprawling Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture were ordered to install a government-developed GPS system in their car.
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