- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Chinese government has launched a new initiative that will use “big data” to improve intelligence gathering for counterterrorism operations — most likely to focus on activity among the Muslim ethnic Uighur groups in the nation’s Western Xinjang region.

China’s Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun announced the new “joint mechanism” for intelligence gathering to “smash violent terrorist” activities before they occur, according to a report posted Thursday on the website of Xinhua, the Chinese government-controlled news agency.

Mr. Guo did not specify which government departments will take part in the intelligence sharing mechanism but said Chinese authorities should use “big data and information technologies” to enhance coordination, sharing and research of “anti-terrorism intelligence,” the Xinhua report said.

The announcement comes just days after President Obama urged greater cooperation between China and the United States in fighting global terrorism.

“There are specific areas where we could work together, for example in stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and cracking down on terrorist funding networks,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Xinhua that appeared on the news agency’s website Monday, according to Reuters.

More specifically, President Obama said groups such as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) — an terrorist and separatist outfit founded by Uighur militants in western China — should not be allowed to establish safe haven in ungoverned areas along China’s periphery.

Reuters noted that China blames the ETIM for carrying out attacks in the western Xinjiang region, where the ethnic Uighur population is concentrated, but that many foreign experts doubt the group’s existence in a cohesive outfit.

Chinese authorities have engaged in a security crackdown in the Xinjang region during recent months, following a grisly incident in July when a knife-wielding gang attacked several government buildings, including a police station in the region.

Dozens were killed in the attacks, which occurred just a day before Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Chinese authorities subsequently described the incident as a “terrorist attack,” according to a Xinhua report at the time.

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