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. China says ready to protect nation after Al-Qaeda threat

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 10, 2009
China said Saturday it was confident it could ensure the nation's safety after an Al-Qaeda leader called on members of the mainly Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang to launch a jihad against Beijing.

"The Chinese government has the confidence and the ability to protect the safety of the nation, of people's lives and property," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement faxed to AFP.

Ma was reacting to a call made this week by Abu Yahia al-Libi, one of Al-Qaeda's top leaders, in a video recording posted on an Islamist website, according to the SITE Intelligence group.

"Let our Muslim brothers in Turkestan know that there is no way for salvation and that there is no way to lift oppression and injustice but with truthful return to their faith and attachment to it as much as possible; to seriously prepare for jihad (holy war)," Libi said.

He also claimed the Uighurs suffered from discrimination, and pledged the communist Chinese regime would face the same fate as the former Soviet Union, which Islamist fighters had ferociously battled in Afghanistan.

But Ma said in the statement that China's northwest Xinjiang region -- where deadly unrest broke out in July between Uighurs and Han Chinese -- "fully implemented measures of ethnic equality and religious freedom."

"We will continue to cooperate with the international community to jointly face the terrorism threat," he said.

On July 5, ethnic riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, led to nearly 200 deaths, mostly Han Chinese, according to authorities.

But exiled Uighur leaders have blamed the outbreak of violence on Chinese forces, accusing them of opening fire on peaceful protests over the murder of two Uighurs in a factory brawl in the southern province of Guangdong.

China sentenced to death one of the instigators of the fight on Saturday and another was given a life prison term in a move that could be interpreted as an attempt to appease the Uighur community.

But hundreds have been arrested over the July violence in Urumqi and tensions remain high in the region.

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