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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

China releases list of wanted terror group leaders

October 22, 2008

By Christopher Bodeen
October 21, 2008

BEIJING -- Chinese police called Tuesday for the arrest and
extradition to China of the alleged leader of an Islamic terrorist
group and seven core members accused of plotting attacks against the
Beijing Olympics.

A Public Security Ministry spokesman said the eight men, all Chinese
citizens, were believed to have financed, incited and organized
attacks during and around the Aug. 8-24 games as part of an ongoing
insurgency against Chinese rule in the traditionally Muslim west.

Wu Heping told reporters at a news briefing that the men were members
of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a murky collection of
extremists believed to be based across the border in lawless areas of
Pakistan and Afghanistan

The eight "seriously threatened the security of the Beijing Olympic
Games and China's social stability, while at the same time composing
a threat to the security and stability of relevant countries and the
region," Wu said.

Wu did not say in what country the men were suspected of hiding and
left the briefing without taking questions.

After years of relative quiet, the western region of Xinjiang was
rocked in August by a series of guerrilla-style attacks and bombings
that killed 33 people.

The violence was reportedly carried out by radicals among Xinjiang's
native Uighur ethnic group, Muslims whose language, culture and
religion is distinct from China's Han majority. Like Tibetans, many
Uighurs complain of a colonial-style Chinese presence on their
territory, chafing under tight religious and cultural strictures and
complaining that economic development has disproportionately
benefited Chinese migrants.

Beijing says police stopped a number of other terrorist plots before
they could be carried out, but it has provided little direct evidence
to support authorities' claims that they were ordered by Islamic
Movement leaders based across the border.

Overseas Uighur activists say such accusations are politically
motivated and designed to justify strict curbs on religious,
political and cultural rights in Xinjiang.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress,
said Tuesday's announcement was part of an attempt to provide legal
cover for a wide-ranging crackdown on Uighurs that followed the Olympics.

China's refusal to publicly release evidence or allow an independent
investigation into the recent attacks undercuts its accusations of
terrorism, he said.

"I have never heard of these people and none of these accusations
have been independently confirmed, but I'm sure they will use them to
ratchet up pressure further in Xinjiang," Raxit said in a telephone interview.

A news release issued at Wu's press conference offered basic
biographical information about the men and vague claims about their
alleged terrorist activities. Photographs of seven of the eight men
were also included.

It identified one man, 37-year-old Memetiming Memeti, as the leader
of the movement, saying he had joined the group in an unidentified
South Asian country after leaving home in 1998 and assumed the
leadership after its former chief was killed in a skirmish with
security forces in Pakistan in 2003.

Others accused include 33-year-old university graduate Tuersun
Toheti, a bomb maker blamed for planning attacks on Chinese targets
outside the country.

The release did not link the men to specific incidents, although one
of them bore the alias "Saifula" that was also used by a man shown
issuing threats against the Olympics on a videotaped messaged
released in July. In the video, a masked man speaking Uighur claimed
responsibility for a bus bombing in the Chinese city of Kunming and
warned spectators and athletes, "particularly the Muslims," not to
attend the Olympics.

Li Wei, a counterterrorism expert at a Chinese government-backed
think tank, said Tuesday's announcement was a sign of China's
sustained commitment to defeating the extremists following the end of
the Olympics.

"China's major investment in Olympic security has helped them
apprehend evidence of potential terrorist activity," said Li, who
speculated that the eight named men were hiding in neighboring
Central Asian states.

"However, counterterrorism is also a long-term task which the
government should devote their resources to continuously," Li said.
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