01/08/2007, 00.00
CHINA – ISLAM
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Chinese police kill 18 “terrorists” in Xinjiang

The raid, occurred Friday, was publicized today by the police. According to China, Muslim separatists are linked with al- Qaeda. But many critics accuse China of using the excuse of terrorism to suppress religion and Uighur identity.
Beijing  (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Chinese police raided an alleged terrorist camp killing 18 suspects and arresting 17 in the western Xinjiang region, near the border with Pakistan.
 
Police sources said the raid occurred Friday at a training camp run by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). One police officer was killed and another was injured in the shoot-out. Police are also searching for suspects who are believed to have escaped during the raid. They found 22 grenades and material for 1,500 more.
 
The camp was located in the Pamir Plateau, a sprawling high-altitude section of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Region near the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan.
 
According to the Chinese authorities, militants among the region's dominant ethnic Uighurs are leading a violent Islamic separatist movement in Xinjiang. The Uighurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims with a language and culture distinct from the majority of Chinese.
 
But critics – and the UN among them - accuse Beijing of using the excuse of terrorism to crack down on peaceful pro-independence sentiment and expressions of Uighur identity.
 
China occupied Xinjiang at the end of the communist revolution in 1949. Since then millions of Chinese migrants have been moved to Xinjiang to colonize the society and the economy.
 
The Religious Affairs Bureau has put restrictions on the religious practice. Minors and women  are not allowed to go to mosques and Islamic schools are forbidden. Recently, the Chinese authorities have put restrictions also on the number of pilgrims allowed to go to Mecca.
 
China says ETIM is one of the region's most violent groups, labelling it a terrorist organization and alleging that it has links to al-Qaida. Two years ago, China claimed that Muslim separatist groups and individuals in western China had carried out 260 attacks since 1995, killing 160 people and injuring 440.
 
According to a local newspaper, in 2005 in Xinjiang China arrested18.227 Uygurs for "threatening national security".
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