- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2002

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan Authorities in neighboring Kyrgyzstan are exploring whether militant Chinese Muslims were behind the weekend assassination of a Chinese diplomat and a businessman on the streets of the nation's capital, Bishkek.
The Russian Itar-Tass news agency said yesterday that the killers belong to SHAT (Free Turkestan), an Uigur separatist group that originated in western China's autonomous Xingjiang-Uigur district in the early 1990s and has been seeking the creation of an independent state called East Turkestan.
Concern about the Uigur uprising is believed to have contributed to the Beijing government's eagerness to cooperate with the United States in its war on terrorism.
Bishkek police said they also were looking into other possibilities, including a theory that the slaying might have been related to commercial activities by businessman Umar Nurmuhamed.
Wan Jianpin, the consul at the Chinese Embassy, was riding in a limousine driven by Mr. Umar in central Bishkek on Saturday evening when two attackers using Russian-made TT pistols opened fire from close range. Both Chinese men died at the scene as the assailants escaped.
Police reported they had arrested the mastermind behind the slayings but refused to release the name or discuss the motive.
Newspapers in Bishkek said the killers were thought to have already fled the country and to be headed for Afghanistan or Pakistan.
"The investigation has already yielded some results," the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry press service told the Kyrgyz Kabar news agency.
A Chinese team left for Kyrgyzstan yesterday to investigate the killings.


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