China says breaks up 12 terrorist cells in far west

Chinese forces in Kashgar in the restive far western region of Xinjiang have so far this year broken up 12 overseas-based terrorist cells, a report on a government website said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The report, carried on www.china.com.cn and citing Kashgar's deputy Communist Party boss Huang Sanping, named the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Hizb ut-Tahrir as two of the groups involved.

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement was listed by the United Nations as a terrorist group in 2002 and has links to al Qaeda. But Hizb ut-Tahrir, which says its goal is to establish a pan-national Islamic state, denies espousing violence.

"As the Olympics is getting ever nearer, the forces of the Communist Party, army, People's Armed Police and public security department in Kashgar are fully prepared for any eventuality, and can respond to sudden incidents at any time," the report said.

Chinese state media have reported several instances of terror plots in Xinjiang being broken up in the past few weeks.

Last week, China said it had foiled five "terrorism groups" planning attacks targeting the Beijing Olympics, with police detaining 82 people in Xinjiang. It was not clear whether the latest report included those previously reported detained.

Rights groups say China is using next month's Beijing Olympics as an excuse to crack down further in Xinjiang, home to some 8 million Muslim, Turkic-speaking Uighurs, many of whom chafe under Chinese rule.

The report said Kashgar, close to both the Pakistan and Afghanistan borders, was at the "front line" of Xinjiang's efforts to fight terrorism.

"These groups have been proactively infiltrating into China, using those with no occupations, released from labour reform camps or dissatisfied with society, to carry out damaging activities, and are a threat," Huang was quoted as saying.

"Although the number of people involved is not many, it has had a certain effect on society due to Kashgar's special position," he added.

Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said this was just another example of China needlessly targeting Uighurs.

"There is no proof to show that they engaged in terrorism," he said in an emailed statement.

"If China is convinced of its accusations, then it should not fear letting in the international community to investigate."

Beijing accuses militant Uighurs of working with al Qaeda to bring about an independent state called East Turkestan.

Many Uighurs resent the migration of Han Chinese to the region and government controls on their religion and culture.

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