An interesting turn of events just in from various news agencies: a certain Commander Seyfullah of the “Turkestan Islamic Party” has claimed credit in a video statement for the bus bombing/flash-fire that occured in Shanghai on May 5th, two more recent bus explosions that occurred in Yunnan a few days ago, along with two other unreported, alleged incidents, one being the bombing of a plastics factory in Guangzhou and a exlosives-laden tractor attack against police in Wenzhou.
Not much can be said until we have an opportunity to view the video. The last time there was a buzz about an East Turkestan Islamic movement produced video, the resultant surprise and concern were quickly quashed by the content of the actual video itself which, as we covered here at The New Dominion, contained a number of inconsistencies and puzzling questions, all but ruling out the authenticity of the video’s claims.
Yet even with what little information we have, there are a number of eyebrow-raising points to consider…
First, why the delay? Why would such an organization carry out these attacks only wait until now to claim ownership of the violence?
Why would China remain silent on such issues even if they had the slightest inkling that East Turkestan terrorists were responsible for the acts? There’s a trend among the government to exploit every opportunity to justify increased Olympics security and crackdowns in restive minority areas, as evidenced by the glowing report released recently on “busting up terrorist cells”, as well as the intense domestic press coverage of incidents with really spurious, if not entirely fabricated links to religious terrorism. One would assume that these bus bombing incidents would also be revealed to the public as the machinations of Muslim terrorists, and thus further justify both iron security at the Olympics and massive crackdowns in Xinjiang – though I also acknowledge the possibility of a face issue, where the CCP is willing to acknowledge the threat itself but not actual instances where terrorists slipped through cracks in the Great Security Wall. It remains a fact, however, that the official government word on both the Kunming and Shanghai bus incidents is that while they definitely weren’t accidents, they aren’t linked to terrorism or the Olympics. Obviously the CCP and Seyfullah can’t both be correct.
Who is Seyfullah? What is the Turkestan Islamic Party? Much scholastic criticism concerning Chinese and American policy towards the East Turkestan Islamic Party (which apparently also goes by Turkestan Islamic Party, which also happens to be another possible name for the successor of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which may or may not have been eradicated) centers around the question of whether or not such an organization even exists on a structurally significant level. I’m willing to wager that if we were actually see this video we could ascertain just from the content whether or not there are genuine links to Uyghur-related unrest or if it is a deliberate but sloppy attempt to agitate, as the last video appeared to be. I would be interested to see what kind of background Seyfullah delivers his statement in front of, what language he speaks in, what kind of attire he wears.
What are the abilities of this shadowy movement? Violence attributed to Uyghurs has been on the decline for the past decade, yet suddenly there’s a Uyghur movement that is capable of striking in places as distant as Wenzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, and Guangzhou? Just as I believe the Chinese government is not beyond attributing Islamic, terroristic motives to secular hooligan gang violence in Urumqi, I wouldn’t put it past international agitators to attempt to weave a pattern between various violent occurrences, a pattern with no real basis in reality.
So basically, as is the case for most information coming out of China concerning Xinjiang or the Uyghurs – it’s time to suspend judgement. There are reasons this could be legit, and there are (probably far more) reasons this could be just troublemakers throwing fuel onto the pre-Olympic fire. But until we can see some primary sources on our own – rather than receiving information filtered through layer after layer of various news organizations – it’s hard to say what’s what. Trying to report on the facts about Xinjiang reminds me of what terrorism and “the war on terrorism” is all about – in the end, much of it is information warfare – it’s out-mis-informing the misinformation of the other side, until nobody knows what the hell is going on. That’s basically the situation we’re looking at when we try to analyze East Turkestani terrorism.
For now, we’ll just try to point out what we can and encourage a critical analysis and discussion beyond what reliable is simplly verbatim repitition of either Xinhua or “the terrorists” on the parts of the major news agencies. And in that spirit, if anyone has any comments, observations, or better yet, links to the alleged video, please do share in the comments below or in the contact form above.