Many people looking to join jihad abroad travel via Henan city: study

By Chen Heying Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-5 0:18:03

Experts in Southwest China's Yunnan Province found that many would-be jihadists in China who left the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to join jihad in the Middle East traveled via the city of Nanyang, Central China's Henan Province.

More stringent border controls in Xinjiang in recent years have led to would-be jihadists resorting to more roundabout routes.

Now many looking to travel abroad go from Xinjiang to Nanyang via Lanzhou, Gansu Province and Xi'an, Shaanxi Province in Northwest China, Zhang Shaoying, an associate research fellow with the Research Center for Geopolitics and Anti-terrorism under the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

They then head to border provinces, including Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Yunnan Province, Zhang added.

The center conducted research into the routes used by interviewing over a dozen academics and police officers who were intimately involved in counterterrorism activities in Kunming, provincial capital of Yunnan and Guangzhou, Guangdong Province following the fatal rail station attack in Kunming on March 1, 2014.

The researchers also looked at media reports about this phenomenon, and many of the routes described in interviews by those that managed to travel abroad to fight coincided with their findings.

Nanyang is well-connected to Xinjiang, as a large jade market in the city attracts many merchants from Xinjiang. For example, buses run regularly between Xinjiang's Hotan and Kashgar prefectures, and Nanyang.

"These links encouraged the would-be jihadists to choose Nanyang as their interchange station before going to border provinces," the research team explained.

"As many of them were persuaded to leave China by relatives that were committed jihadists, by the time they have spent most of their money getting to Nanyang they often waver in their determination to go on," Zhang said.

But if they can acquire funds from friends they will likely continue travel to the border areas, he added.

The team suggested the authorities try to convince the aspiring fighters to drop their plans while they travel between Xi'an and Nanyang.

However, Wang Guoxiang, an associate professor at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that the data collected by the research center may not be representative of all potential jihadists given the limited sample size.

"It is difficult to differentiate between would-be jihadists and ordinary travelers and it is illegal to stop them traveling within China," he added.

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