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China admits to terrorist camps in Pakistan

Press Trust of India

Posted: Apr 19, 2007 at 1732 hrs IST

In a major blow to Pakistan's counter-terrorism credentials, China has for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of terrorist camps within the territory of its ‘all-weather’ ally.

It said that some East Turkistan separatists, who have been fighting for decades to make oil-rich northwest China's Xinjiang province an independent state, received training at the terrorist camps in Pakistan.

The damning confirmation came in a court document in the trial of 37-year-old Huseyin Celil, a China-born Uygur-Canadian, who was today sentenced to life imprisonment by a Chinese court in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, for "taking part in terrorist activities and plotting to split the country."

According to the court documents, Celil joined the East Turkistan Liberation Organisation (ETLO), a listed terrorist group active in central Asia, in November 1997 and was appointed as a senior instructor in Kyrgyzstan.

While there, Celil allegedly recruited several people to the ETLO and sent them to terrorist training camps on the Pamir Plateau in Pakistan, the court documents said.

Interestingly, the report came hours after Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz left Beijing following talks with top Chinese leaders, including President Hu Jintao, during which he discussed counter-terrorism among other things.

During the talks between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Aziz on Tuesday, the two sides had agreed to cement cooperation in campaigns against "East Turkistan" separatists in Xinjiang and combat cross-border crime.

Uygur militants, whom Beijing calls terrorists or separatists, have been struggling for decades to make oil-rich Xinjiang an independent state called East Turkistan.

Since the 9/11 terrorist strike against the United States, China has conducted counter-terrorism campaign in Xinjiang, arresting top leaders of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), the main separatist group.

Celil was also active in another listed terrorist organisation, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), for which he helped raise funds, recruit members and organise training, Xinhua news agency said.

Citing court documents, it said that in 1997, Celil met ETIM's former head Hasan Mahsum, who was shot dead by the Pakistan army in 2003, and worked directly under Mahsum's command.

In January, Chinese police busted a terrorist training camp in the Pamir Plateau in Xinjiang, killing 18 "terrorists" and arresting 17 others. In the raid, one Chinese police officer was killed and another wounded.

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