'Terror gang' rounded up in Xinjiang

Source: China Daily [23:22 September 17 2009]

Security forces said Wednesday raids, which ended late last month, broke up a terrorist bomb-making operation in Xinjiang in Northwest China.

The six alleged terrorists taken into custody during the pre-Aug 26 swoops were hoping to ramp up violence and panic in the troubled region by carrying out suicide bombings and other outrages, police said Wednesday.

Investigators uncovered a large cache of bomb-making material when they conducted operations in Aksu, in the southern part of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, said a notice posted on the Ministry of Public Security website Wednesday.

Police believe the gang made more than 20 bombs that were hidden in three locations around Aksu in the aftermath of the July 5 riot in Urumqi.

The authorities say the group was preparing to carry out suicide bombings, motorbike explosions and detonate car bombs.

Police named two of the six people in custody as Seyitamut Obul and Tasin Mehmut.

The pair were described as the ringleaders of the cell.

Li Wei, director of the center for counterterrorism studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, warned that terrorists are looking for new ways to spread fear.

"Terrorists have gone underground to organize different forms of terror attacks in Xinjiang, after the July 5 riot in Urumqi, such as the recent syringe attacks in the region and plotting bomb attacks," said Li.
 
The riot in the regional capital of Urumqi took the lives of almost 200 people. Most victims were ethnic Han.

"It is extremely difficult now for the terrorists to organize large-scale terror events like the July 5 riot because security has been tightened," Li said while adding that the terrorists are not targeting a specific ethnic group, but everyone.

Regional officials have branded the recent spate of syringe attacks in Xinjiang as "terror attacks".

"They are aimed at disrupting the city's atmosphere and spreading fear," said Yan Yuxing, former president of Urumqi Intermediate People's Court.

Some 75 suspected needle attackers have been apprehended and at least 36 related cases have been cracked, said Zhang Jun, deputy director of the Urumqi public security bureau, during a press conference on Tuesday.

The country's anti-terror network announced on Aug 3 that the authorities had successfully crushed five organized terror plots - in Urumqi, Kashgar, Aksu and Ili - since the July 5 riot.

According to the regional public security department, the three forces of separatism, extremism and terrorism were responsible for 1,000 attacks in Xinjiang since 1990.

During that time, 648 terrorists were apprehended.

In response to the July 5 riot, investigators have so far detained 825 people. Local police have requested the procuratorate approves the arrest of 239 suspects thought to have been involved in the riot. Among the 239 arrest approval requests, 196 have been granted.