Central Asia hotbed of al-Qaeda, ETIM threats
The arrest of 14 Kyrgyz servicemen for allegedly selling weapons to terrorists involved in the August car bomb attack on the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan has sparked calls for greater anti-terror cooperation with Central Asian countries.
"The incident sheds light on twin terrorism threats in Central Asia - surviving al-Qaeda forces hidden in this area and new terror groups influenced by the Islamic States (IS)," Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.
Several serving and retired border service officers and a director of the Interior Ministry were allegedly involved in selling weapons to criminal gangs, who launched terror attacks on the Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan and against a Kyrgyz prosecutor earlier this year, the Russian news agency Interfax reported on Sunday.
Compared with the governments of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, which have a good control over their national security, the turbulent political situation in Kyrgyzstan makes the country ripe for terrorist activities, said Li.
Li said China's counter-terror measures are part of international efforts, and China should seek greater cooperation with other countries guided by the UN Security Council.
Considering that some terrorists in China are now heading to Syria to join IS or conducting terror activities in neighboring areas, China is trying to shut down their transit points in Southeast Asia and is seeking greater cooperation with countries, including Turkey, to crack down on East Turkestan separatists, Li said.
Kyrgyzstan's state security service confirmed in a statement in September that the attack was ordered by Uyghur militants active in Syria and carried out by a member of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), Reuters reported.
"There are quite a number of Uyghurs living in Central Asia and the Turkistan Islamic Party, a branch of the ETIM, has strengthened its influence in the area in recent years. They are a threat to regional stability as well as China's anti-terror efforts," Zhu Yongbiao, associate professor at the Institute for Central Asian Studies of Lanzhou University, told the Global Times.
Zhu said that China has intensified its crackdown on the ETIM and has been cooperating with countries in this area, including providing facilities and funds, working together on extradition efforts and establishing a network for sharing anti-terror information under the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
"We should engage in closer security cooperation through the SCO, leaving no room for destabilizing forces," Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the close of the two-day SCO meeting in Central China's Henan Province in December 2015.
Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are among SCO member countries.