In a rare public admission of Pakistani links to militancy in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province, the official media here on Wednesday said the co-founder of al-Qaeda linked East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) was indoctrinated in a madarasa in that country.
State-run China Daily on Wednesday published confessions of Memetuhut Memetrozi, 41, co-founder of ETIM which is fighting for secession of Xinjiang from China. He is serving a life sentence for his involvement in terrorist attacks.
According to confession statement released by Xinjiang No 1 Prison, Memetuhut was repatriated by Pakistan’s intelligence service to China.
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Born in southern Xinjiang’s Hotan prefecture to a farmers family, Memetuhut said he travelled around Central Asia pursuing his interest in Islam.
At the end of 1992, he enrolled in an Arab-run school in Pakistan where he came into contact with young religious extremists. The extremists showed him books and videos about religious extremism.
“Such thoughts in his head were like bugs that grew bigger and bigger until they took control of his mind and body,” said Memetuhut, who began to promote jihad.
He and other young Uygurs who came under the influence of religious extremism travelled to Afghanistan and joined a camp where they were trained to carry out terrorist attacks.
After a year of training, Memetuhut returned to Pakistan and enrolled in International Islamic University’s law department. While trying to get a master’s degree in international relations and politics, he continued spreading religious extremism, the report said.
In 1997, Memetuhut met Hasan Mahsum from southern Xinjiang’s Kashgar prefecture. Hasan was extremely critical of China’s ethnic and religious policies, which made Memetuhut determined to have Xinjiang secede from China.
At the end of 1997, they founded the ETIM and Hasan became its chairman. Hasan was killed in Pakistan in 2003, the report said.
The publication of Memetuhut’s confessions by the state- run media highlighting his Pakistani links marks a departure from the past when Chinese government for a over a decade refrained from publicly criticiing its all weather ally over the infiltration of militants into Xinjiang which bordered Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan.
But at the same time Chinese officials continue to acknowledge Pakistan’s cooperation in cracking down on the ETIM training camps, while privately keeping up pressure on Islamabad to stop the infiltration.