Leaders from "East Turkestan" terror organizations have organized for members to head for Syria to participate in their quest for jihad, the Global Times has learned from Chinese anti-terrorism authorities.
The organizations include the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and the East Turkestan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) that push for "independence" for China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Since May, ETIM and ETESA members have been going to Syria and linking up with organizations like Al Qaeda to fight against the Syrian government, according to China's anti-terrorism authority.
"ETIM is being helped by Al Qaeda and they are collecting funds through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery. ETIM selected and recruited separatists, criminals and terrorists who fled from Xinjiang to receive secret terrorism training, an official from the anti-terrorism authorities told the Global Times.
After receiving orders from Al Qaeda, terrorists from China came to Syria to meet with jihadists already on the ground before forming groups on the frontlines, the official said.
ETIM was listed as a terrorism organization in September 2009 and recognized by the China Ministry of Public Security as one of four "East Turkestan" terrorism organizations.
On April 6, the ministry identified its third batch of "East Turkestan" terrorists with most being affiliated with ETIM.
The headquarters of ETESA, located in Istanbul, are quite extensive and include research, media, social affairs, education and women's affairs departments. It aims to "educate and train Muslims" in Xinjiang and "set them free" by forming a Muslim state, according to a second official.
Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador to China, told the Global Times that they are not clear about the terrorism activities made by jihadists from the "East Turkestan" terrorist groups in Syria.
"But it's not a surprise that such things happen," Imad said, adding that extremists from several countries including Libya and Iraq had been fighting along the Turkish-Syrian border and inside Syria.
"These men came to Syria from Turkey," said Imad, accusing the Turkish government of indulging these activities.
Murat Salim Esenli, the Turkish ambassador to China, denied the accusation, saying Turkey, while also facing terrorist threats, has been sharing intelligence with the Chinese government on terrorist activities.
"Turkey supported the Chinese efforts to list the 'East Turkestan Islamic Movement' as an internationally recognized terrorist organizations during its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2009-10," Esenli told the Global Times.
"The Turkish government has comprehensively cooperated with the Chinese side in handling the terrorism threats," the Turkish ambassador stressed. "We categorically deny the allegation that the Turkish government, which is also a victim of terrorism, has been supporting terrorist activities inside Syria."
"On the contrary, it's [Syrian leader] Bashar al-Assad's regime that failed to properly handle its domestic peaceful protests in the very beginning," he added. Such a failure consequently "led to carnage."
Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of Al Qaeda, incited his followers to join in the war against Syria on Saturday, following concerns expressed by anti-terrorist organs from the UN, the US and Europe that the ongoing Syrian war would help galvanize global terror networks.