DUBAI (Reuters) - An Islamist militant group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party said a deadly car crash in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on October 28 was a “jihadi operation” by holy warriors, the SITE monitoring service said.
The service, which tracks Islamist militant statements, said the party had released a Uighur-language audio speech from its leader Abdullah Mansour in which he said such operations by mujahideen, or its holy warriors, were only the beginning of attacks on Chinese authorities.
In the attack, a vehicle ploughed through bystanders on the edge of the capital’s Tiananmen Square and burst into flames, killing the three people in the car and two bystanders.
In an eight-minute message, Mansour said Uighur fighters would target even the Great Hall of the People, where the Chinese parliament meets and China’s Communist Party holds legislative and ceremonial activities, SITE said.
The service quoted Mansour as saying: “O Chinese unbelievers, know that you have been fooling East Turkestan for the last 60 years, but now they have awakened. The people have learned who is the real enemy and they returned to their own religion. They learned the lesson.”
Chinese authorities have blamed what they called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Muslim Uighur separatist group in Xinjiang province, for the attack, and arrested five people they said were radical Islamists planning a holy war.
Since the Tiananmen incident security has been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang, the restive far western region Uighurs call home.
Many Uighurs resent controls imposed by Beijing and an inflow of Han Chinese migrants, and some Uighur groups are campaigning for an independent homeland for their Turkic-speaking people.
The Uighurs are culturally closer to ethnic groups across central Asia and Turkey than the Han Chinese who make up the vast majority of China’s population.
It was not immediately clear if ETIM, branded a terrorist organisation by the United States in 2002, is connected to the one purportedly led by Mansour.
There has been uncertainty among experts in recent years about whether ETIM still operates as an effective organisation. After a key leader of the group was killed in 2003, its activities went into decline.
In 2011, some experts said they believed ETIM had reformed under the name of the Turkestan Islamic Party, which claimed to be behind attacks in China before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Chinese authorities at the time dismissed the group’s claims of responsibility.
Reporting by William Maclean; editing by Andrew Roche