Terror law called for after Xinjiang attack

Updated: 2013-07-09 01:24

By CUI JIA in Urumqi and AN BAIJIE in Beijing (China Daily)

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Spread of religious extremism must be curbed in Xinjiang, experts say

A law to define terrorism or a terrorist attack is urgently needed to prevent further bloodshed following attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where there is a tendency toward suicide attacks, experts say.

They also said the spread of religious extremism must be curbed in the northwestern region.

"After a planned attack on a passenger plane taking off from the regional capital Urumqi was foiled in 2008, terrorist attacks in the region have entered a new phase," said Ma Pinyan, a senior anti-terrorism researcher and deputy director of the ethnic and religious study center at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.

The number of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang fell from 2001 to 2008 because the international community stepped up security after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Ma said, without giving figures.

But he said that in the past few years, the penetration of religious extremism and attack manuals from abroad have led to increased attacks in Xinjiang that are similar to those elsewhere in the world.

Ma said the attackers have also shown greater suicidal tendencies.

"Suicide attacks don't necessarily mean suicide bombings. Attacking a police station with knives, like the latest attack in Lukqun township, is also a form of suicide attack that could be classified as the highest level of terrorist activity. The attackers clearly knew they would be shot or captured and didn't want to live," Ma said.

Xinjiang police said the suspected leader of the gang that carried out an attack on June 26 in Lukqun, Turpan prefecture, arranged for members to watch videos promoting religious extremism. Before the attack, which resulted in 35 deaths, two extremists from Kuqa county in southern Xinjiang called on the gang to carry out a jihad, or holy war, they said.

Police also found that members of a terrorist cell formed in September 2012 in Selibuya township, Kashgar prefecture, regularly attended meetings where they viewed and listened to materials relating to religious extremism and terrorism.

They also underwent physical training and learned how to kill by watching footage of terrorist attacks. Police found knives, combat training material, illegal extreme religious pamphlets and three jihadist flags after the group killed 15 people in an attack on April 23.

"We've seen more and more such attacks plotted and carried out by small groups brainwashed by religious extremism," Ma said.

Abudurehep Tumniaz, head of the Xinjiang Islamic Institute in Urumqi and a respected religious leader in the region, said extremists tend to use religion as a cover to lure people into terrorist activities.

"They misinterpret the Quran and fool people," he said. "Religious leaders need to tell people the importance of the law and help them understand the spirit of Islam, which is based on peace and unity."

Azham Mehmut, imam of Tenger Mosque in Luqun township, said it's not difficult to spot extreme religious activities.

"I encouraged people to report such activities to authorities because the attack in the township has clearly exposed their (the attackers') intentions," he said, adding that activities at his mosque have continued normally after the attack.

Ma said that with the increasing popularity of the Internet, spreading extreme religious ideas is easier in Xinjiang.

"The key to fighting terrorism in the region is to curb the spread of religious extremism, and the battle is intense," he said.

Li Xiaoxia, director of the Institute of Sociology with Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said religious extremism is sometimes spread among local people during traditional rituals such as weddings, funerals, or even football games.

Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, called for an anti-terrorism law.

"Under current laws there is no definition of a terrorism organization, terrorism attack or terrorism crime and the terrorists are all charged with other crimes such as damaging public security," Li said.