- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

BEIJING China stepped up efforts yesterday to win acceptance of its fight with Muslim separatists in its northwest, issuing a report accusing one group of being part of Osama bin Laden's terror network and of getting weapons and money from him.
The report was the most explicit Chinese claim yet linking bin Laden and separatists in the northwestern Muslim region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan. It singled out the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which it said coordinated action with bin Laden and sent him fighters for training.
"The 'East Turkestan' terrorist organization … has the unstinting support of bin Laden and is an important part of his terrorist forces," said the report issued by the press office of China's Cabinet.
The report didn't offer any evidence to support its claims.
China has tried to portray opponents of Chinese rule in Xinjiang as part of the global terror threat being fought by the U.S.-led coalition. Washington has rebuffed the claim, calling instead for a political settlement in the region.
The report yesterday came two weeks after a six-nation group led by China and Russia agreed to cooperate more closely in fighting Muslim separatism and extremism, including stepping up work on creating a regional counterterrorism center.
China said after the Jan. 7 meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Group which also includes Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan that the governments had backed its anti-separatist campaign in Xinjiang.
The report yesterday blamed separatists for 162 deaths from 1990 to 2001 in Xinjiang. It gave unusually detailed accounts of attacks on government officials, pro-Beijing religious figures and others.
The relatively low death toll, spread over 11 years, supported arguments by foreign scholars who say separatist violence appears to be carried out by individuals or small groups rather than an organized movement.
Nevertheless, the Chinese report contended that separatist violence in Xinjiang was part of an international Muslim extremist plot to overthrow Chinese rule and install a theocratic "Islam state" in the region.
It said bin Laden had coordinated activities of Xinjiang separatists with the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and Islamic extremists in Uzbekistan.
All three supplied weapons, ammunition, transportation and telecommunications equipment to the East Turkestan group, the report said.
Guerrillas picked by East Turkestan Islamic Movement leader Hasan Mahsum were sent to Afghanistan for training in Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif and elsewhere, the report said.
Anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan captured some Muslims from China's Uighur ethnic minority fighting for the Taliban, though there was no conclusive evidence of formal ties between bin Laden or the Taliban and Xinjiang separatist groups.
Chinese state media have reported the arrest and execution of a handful of people in the northwest said to have received weapons from abroad. But officials haven't publicly identified any Chinese who received training or aid from bin Laden or the Taliban.


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