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Pak hands over rebel leader to China

Pak hands over rebel leader to China

Author: Tamora Vidaillet
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: May 28, 2002

Introduction: Ismail Kadir, who Beijing says helped spearhead a movement by separatist Uighurs in Xinjiang, was nabbed by Pakistan authorities as he attended a secret meeting in disputed Kashmir

China said on Monday that Pakistan had handed over a key leader of Chinese Muslim separatists who fought alongside the Taliban, and another 400 militants had been captured in Afghanistan or on return to China.

Ismail Kadir, who Beijing says helped spearhead a movement by separatist Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, was nabbed by Pakistan authorities as he attended a secret meeting in disputed Kashmir, Xinjiang's Communist Party Secretary Wang Lequan said.

"There were 10 people in charge of the East Turkestan forces and Ismail Kadir was caught and is right now in our hands," he said, adding that China had helped Pakistan confirm his identity. But Hasan Mahsum, who China says is the overseas ring leader of Chinese Muslims fighting to establish an independent state of East Turkestan in Xinjiang, remained at large, he said.

China, long concerned about Islamic extremism in Xinjiang and neighbouring Central Asia, has thrown its weight behind the US-led war on terrorism - in part, analysts say, to legitimise its crackdown on Uighurs harbouring hopes for self-governance.

China has blamed Uighur separatists for more than 200 violent incidents between 1990 and 2001 in Xinjiang, and says Osama bin Laden, chief suspect for the September 11 attacks, provided financial and material aid to them. Uighur activists however deny any involvement with Laden or his Al-Qaeda network, and say they are campaigning for religious and cultural freedom in their homeland.

Of the more than 1,000 Chinese Muslim Uighurs who had fought alongside the Taliban, over 100 had been caught by China as they attempted to return, Wang said. Another 300 were captured while in Afghanistan, he said, citing intelligence sources. The rest were still in the northern part of Pakistan or just over the border in Afghanistan, he said. "More than 20 were killed and more than 300 were caught in Afghanistan," Wang said.

A senior US official in December said Uighurs had been caught in Afghanistan but said the US would not hand them over to Beijing due to differing interpretations of what constitutes a terrorist.

But China has found more sympathy for its own crackdown on what it calls terrorists from longtime ally Pakistan.

And Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, said in January that any captured Islamic separatist from China would be dealt with severely.

Reuters
 


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