Chinese authorities have downplayed claims by a militant Islamic group that it is responsible for a string of fatal bus bombings and other incidents and is planning a jihad against the Olympic Games.
China has been warning for months that terrorism, especially from Muslim Uygur separatists in its western Xinjiang province, poses the greatest threat to a successful Games.
But police and officials have now rejected a claim by the little-known Turkestan Islamic Party that it has already successfully carried out several such attacks, including the twin bus bombings in Yunnan this month that killed two people, and a bus explosion in Shanghai in May that killed three.
A Chinese security expert in Beijing said the group’s claim of responsibility was probably just an attempt to terrorise the public and upset the Olympics.
The video seemed to fit the Islamist terror profile. Incantatory music precedes the footage of a white turbaned man, his face shrouded in white cloth, dressed in military fatigues, flanked by two similarly uniformed comrades whose identities are hidden by black commando face masks. In the video, a previously little known group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party claims it carried out several fatal bombings in the country in recent months. The group’s self-described military commander, Seyfullah, said it was responsible for incidents in Shanghai in early May and in the southern city of Kunming on July 21 that killed a total of five people. He also said the group had bombed a plastics factory in the province of Guangdong. Most ominously, he threatened to carry out further attacks during the Beijing Olympics, which are scheduled to open on August 8. Indeed, the video begins with Beijing’s Olympic logo in flames and with a grainy image of a sports facility superimposed with an animated bomb blast.
But was it a serious threat? The three minute video, which was obtained under unspecified circumstances by the Intelcenter, a Washington D.C. company that specializes in collecting counter terrorism information, was greeted with skepticism both in and out of China. Police in Shanghai and Kunming said the blasts weren’t related to opposition to Chinese rule by ethnic Uighur Muslims in the country’s far western province of Xinjiang. Police in Guangdong province also said they had no record of an explosion on the date mentioned in the video.
Video: Islamic Party Threatens Beijing Olympic Games
Reuters news video: Shanghai bus explosion.
Reuters news video: Kunming bus explosion.