BEIJING (Reuters) - Pakistan and China have “broken the back” of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which China accuses of orchestrating attacks in its restive Xinjiang region, Pakistan’s Interior Minister said in Beijing on Friday.
An alleged leader of the group, about which little is known, has been killed, Rehman Malik said at the end of a visit to discuss security cooperation between the two countries.
China has granted long-standing ally Pakistan a $180 million loan to purchase police equipment, including armoured personnel carriers and bullet-proof jackets, Malik told reporters.
“I am happy to inform you that their back is broken, it’s weakened,” Malik said, referring to ETIM.
“We treat ETIM not only as an enemy of China but also as an enemy of Pakistan ... Now the other so-called gang leader Haq has been killed recently, I can confirm that.”
Malik appeared to be referring to Abdul Haq, an ETIM leader also known as Memetiming Memeti, who China says took over leadership of ETIM in 2003 after the death in Pakistan of previous leader Hasan Mahsum.
“We have also heard this but we don’t have any further information and so cannot elaborate,” Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uyghur Congress, an exile group, said on Friday.
“We don’t know this person so we have no way to verify.”
China accuses ETIM of carrying out attacks and claims to have broken up training camps of men seeking independence for Xinjiang, home to the Uighurs, a Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic group. Most of the information on the group comes from Chinese security forces.
“We have witnessed that the ETIM terrorists are weakened and they are no more that kind of organisation,” Malik said.
“We will ensure with China they are rooted out, eliminated ... the main leadership is eliminated.”
China is a major diplomatic and financial backer of Pakistan, providing everything from infrastructure investment to nuclear reactors and weapons. It has continued with investments despite a rise in kidnappings and attacks aimed at Chinese nationals, who were once below the radar of militant groups.
On a visit to China in June last year, Malik said militants in the mountainous frontier of China and Pakistan have formed a “syndicate,” and Beijing and Islamabad were cooperating to stamp them out.
“I assured my Chinese brothers and sisters, the leadership here, that we will be very heavy,” Malik said.
In addition to the loan, China has offered a training programme for Pakistani forces and donated 2 million yuan for the procurement of police equipment, Malik said.
Many of Xinjiang’s 8 million Uighurs chafe at the strict controls on religion that China enforces and resent influxes of Han Chinese migrant workers and businesses. Human rights groups say Beijing has exaggerated the threat from militants to justify suppressing legitimate peaceful demands by Uighurs.
A Uighur man, Memet Turghun Abdulla, has been held by police since August after posting information on the Internet about a fatal attack by Han Chinese workers on Uighur workers in South China last year, Raxit said on Friday.
Demonstrations over that attack boiled into a riot by Uighurs in the ethnically divided city of Urumqi on July 5, 2009, in which almost 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, were killed. Han Chinese attacked Uighur neighbourhoods in revenge two days later. (Editing by Paul Tait)