Multiple blasts on Sunday rocked Xinjiang, a border province that is China’s major energy hub, bringing sharply into focus Beijing’s escalating tussle to counter extremism at a local and regional level.
China Daily, quoting a Xinjiang-based news portal reported that the explosions in Central Xinjiang at two locations killed two people and injured several more.
Sunday’s blasts follow a deadly attack on July 28 that targeted a police station and government building near Kashgar, also in Xinjiang, killing 37 people, before police shot dead 59 of the attackers, state media reported. Two days later, Jume Tahir, a religious leader, apparently close to Beijing, was also killed at the Id Kah mosque, Kashgar’s largest.
Clashes with security forces in Xinjiang, home to the ethnic Uyghur minority, have killed more than 200 people last year. A spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an organisation funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) of the United States, told AFP that China’s policies had caused people to “resist fiercely in order to maintain their dignity.” But trashing this perception, China insists that secessionists from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement have been responsible for the violent campaign.
Beijing regards the movement particularly troublesome because a network of pipelines transiting gas to China’s industrial heartland pass through Xinjiang. The province, adjoining Tibet, also shares borders through the Wakhan corridor with Afghanistan, as well Pakistan and Tajikistan—all possible conduits of Jihadi permeation into China.
During a visit to Dushanbe earlier this month for a summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), visiting Chinese President, Xi Jinping inaugurated construction of Line D of the China-Central Asia energy pipeline, which would transit gas across Tajikistan into Xinjiang. But, he warned that attention had also to be paid to “three evil forces” of terrorism, separatism and extremism, which were posing a serious threat to regional security and stability.
With roots of militancy in Xinjiang spreading into the region and beyond, the Chinese, who are now inclined to include India and Pakistan in the SCO, have pushed counter-terrorism on top of the agenda of the grouping, which also includes Russia and four Central Asian states. The official Chinese news agency Xinhua, noted at the end of the Dushanbe summit that, “Separatist groups in northwest China’s Xinjiang, such as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which has links with militants in Central Asia and Pakistan, have become rampant in recent years.” The commentary warned that Afghanistan’s Asian neighbours “could face huge security risks,” in the aftermath of the American withdrawal from Kabul later this year.