Briefs

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 9
May 4, 2012 04:04 PM Age: 2 yrs
Category: Terrorism Monitor, Brief, Africa, China and the Asia-Pacific

 

UYGHUR MILITANTS RESPOND TO NEW CHINESE LIST OF “TERRORISTS”

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) released a response in late April to the latest list of Uyghur “terrorists” prepared by China’s Ministry of Public Security. The TIP communiqué was entitled “A Statement Regarding the Declaration of a ‘Terrorists’ List for the Third Time by the Chinese Government” (Islam Awazi, April 23).

The Chinese list of six suspects, complete with descriptions, aliases and photos, is consistent with previous Chinese statements that describe Uyghur militants as members of the now defunct Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) rather than members of the TIP. [1] Leading the list of suspects is Nurmemet Memetmin, who is described as the “commander of the ETIM.” [2] According to the Chinese list, Memetmin was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in a “South Asian country,” (i.e. Pakistan, which is always described this way in statements with possible implications for Chinese-Pakistani relations), but had escaped in 2006 to take up the planning of new attacks against China, including the July 30-31, 2011 attacks on civilians in Kashgar allegedly led by the late Memtieli Tiliwaldi (see Terrorism Monitor, April 26).

The TIP used the statement to reject their categorization as “terrorists” by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security:


No doubt those who were accused of terrorism by the oppressive Chinese government are the martyrs who died in the torture chambers defending their religion, honor, and all their rights deprived by the aggressive Chinese…

Let everyone know that the jihad in Turkistan is not a terrorist act but rather it is an aqida [belief] and religious obligation and responsibility that is laid on our shoulders because of the aggressions of the Chinese against us… It is a legitimate right for the Muslims of Eastern Turkistan and it is prohibited for any person to describe it by another name.

The Uyghur Islamists see in the latest list an effort to create divisions within the Islamic community in Xinjiang:

The purpose of the Chinese government in [making] these lists is to cut the link between the mujahideen and the Muslims morally and materially, and safeguard its rule in Eastern Turkistan, but how could they do that, since our proud Muslim Turkistani people, who have intelligence and foresight, knows the cunning of communist China and the extent of its crimes?

The TIP concluded their statement with a call to the international Muslim community to “answer the call to jihad and join the ranks of the mujahideen” in the struggle against the “atheist communist government of China.”

China’s Ministry of Public Security also announced that the suspects’ funds and assets would be frozen, though this was likely to be little more than a formality given the unlikelihood any of the six have funds or investments of any significance in Chinese financial institutions. 

Given the arms used in many of the attacks recently attributed by China to the ETIM (knives, agricultural implements, etc.) and the apparent lack of planning or coordination in these attacks, the remark of a Ministry of Public Security spokesman that the ETIM was “the most direct and real safety threat that China faces” can only be interpreted as an indication that Beijing believes there are no other significant threats to China’s security (Xinhua, April 6).  Nonetheless, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, Hong Lei, did not refrain from suggesting the Uyghur militants posed a major international threat: "The evidence is incontrovertible that this organization's violent terror activities seriously threaten not only China's national security, but also the peace and tranquility of the region and the world" (Reuters, April 6).

Meanwhile two Uyghur prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp have been freed after ten years imprisonment without charges and four years after a U.S. court ordered their release. China has demanded their extradition though the United States, which has determined Uyghur prisoners will suffer persecution at Chinese hands, has banned the prisoners’ entry to U.S. soil. The Uyghurs will thus be settled in a willing third party nation, in this case El Salvador, following earlier resettlement of released Uyghur prisoners in small nations such as Switzerland, Bermuda, Albania and Palau (Reuters, April 20).

Notes:

1. For the list, see: The Ministry of Public Security of the People’s Republic of China, April 6, 2012,  http://www.mps.gov.cn/n16/n1237/n1342/n803715/3197850.html. For an earlier list, see Terrorism Focus Brief, October 20, 2008.

2. Other transliterations of the name from the Chinese include Memtimin Memet,

Memetiming Memeti and Nurmamat Maimaitimin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MILITARY COUP BRINGS GUINEA-BISSAU CLOSER TO NARCO-STATE STATUS

The leaders of the April 12 military coup in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau have claimed they were forced to act in the perpetually unstable and impoverished nation by the alleged threat posed to the Guinea-Bissau military by an Angolan military mission. However, a closer examination of events reveals darker motives related to Guinea-Bissau’s emergence as a prime transit point for the shipment of South American narcotics to European markets.

The coup came at an inopportune time, just as the nation’s harvest of cashew nuts, its leading cash crop, was about to go to market. Infrastructure was slowly improving and there were a number of other positive indicators that have now been reversed by political instability. Guinea-Bissau is a religiously and ethnically diverse country of Sunni Muslims, traditional animists and Roman Catholics belonging to five major tribal groups and a handful of minor groups.

Events were set in motion by the death earlier this year of President Malam Bacai Sanha following a long illness. According to the Guinea-Bissau constitution, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Raimundo Pereira, was sworn in as acting president until elections could be held. However, when Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior took 49% of the vote in the first round of the elections on March 18, his potential opponent in the second round, Kumba Yala (with close ties to the military), joined the other four candidates of the first round in seeking an annulment of the vote. Gomes was unable to establish cooperation with Balanta tribesmen in the military leadership, who see their kinsman Kumba Yala as their leader (All Africa, April 23). When Kumba Yala was elected president in 2000, he quickly elevated many members of his Balanta tribe to top positions in the government and military. However, when the powerful General Anusmane Mané refused to accept a senior post in Yala’s government he was assassinated by the president’s men.

Gomes was the candidate of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), established in 1956 by revolutionary Amilcar Cabral, who overthrew the Portuguese colonial administration with the help of Cuba and the Eastern Bloc in 1973. The nation was founded in bloodshed as the PAIGC massacred all those who had fought in the Portuguese colonial forces and Cabral himself was assassinated shortly after the Portuguese withdrawal. Since 1998 alone, Guinea-Bissau’s military has mounted four coups, engaged in a civil war and assassinated a host of national leaders, including President João Bernardo Vieira in 2009, effectively stymying any efforts at national development.

Raimundo and Gomes were both arrested by the self-titled “Military Command,” though the junta maintained it was acting only in reaction to the presence of foreign [i.e. Angolan] troops in Guinea-Bissau. The Military Command is led by Army chief-of-staff General Antonio Indjai. After roughly two weeks of detention, Raimundo and Gomes were released on April 27 and allowed to leave for Côte d’Ivoire (AFP, April 27). In an April 13 communiqué the coup leaders declared they had taken action to prevent the planned “annihilation” of the armed forces and the murder of General Indjai (IRIN, April 23). By happy coincidence the coup also brought an abrupt end to inquiries into the military-linked political assassinations of 2009 and further military indiscipline in December, 2011. [1] 

To aid in sweeping reforms of Guinea-Bissau’s security forces (including the retirement of many leading officers) the PAIGC sought assistance from Angola, another former Portuguese colony. Angola has invested oil revenues in a number of important economic projects in Guinea-Bissau, including bauxite mining, banking, oil production and the construction of a new deep-water port (Executive Analysis Ltd. via All Africa, April 17).

The result was the deployment in March, 2011 of the Angolan Technical Military and Security Mission in Guinea Bissau (MISSANG-GB), which began a three-phase operation in Guinea-Bissau with the training of 400 men in police and military procedures (O Pais Online [Luanda], April 20). The Angolan mission was deployed with the approval of the Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa (CPLP- Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries), a Lusophone version of the British Commonwealth or the French Francophonie.

Luanda had already announced two days before the coup that MISSANG would be withdrawn, but this did not appear to satisfy the putschists, who may have used the mission’s presence to justify their coup. Accusations that MISSANG was being supplied with heavy weaponry from Angola was not denied by Angolan deputy defense minister General Salviano Sequira “Kianda,” who noted that “Personnel training could not be done with sticks and toys. We have to bring arms, fighting techniques and artillery” (O Pais Online [Luanda], April 28). Though the Angolans have demanded security guarantees during the withdrawal, Colonel Correia de Barros of the Angolan Center for Strategic Studies has noted that “Any attack on the forces of MISSANG [will] have consequences mainly for the armed forces of Guinea-Bissau” (O Pais Online [Luanda], April 20). 

Trafficking of narcotics from South America through Guinea-Bissau to Europe began in earnest in 2005 and has been elevated to a point where the nation risks becoming a failed “narco-state.” Control of the nation’s narcotics trade is behind much of the struggle for control of the security services in Guinea-Bissau. Army chief-of-staff General Batista Tagme Na Waie (a Balanta tribesman) was reported to have been killed by a bomb in March, 2009 a week after discovering 200 kg of cocaine stashed in a hanger belonging to the general staff. The next day a group of soldiers beat and killed President João Bernardo Vieira in his home in what appeared to be a revenge attack (AFP, March 6, 2009). Vieira had himself initially taken power in a 1980 coup.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has decided to deploy an intervention force of 500 to 600 men under the command of Colonel-Major Barro Gnibanga of Burkina Faso. The mission will be tasked with facilitating the departure of MISSANG, maintaining security during the transition process and preparing conditions for the reform of Guinea-Bissau’s security forces (Diário de Notícias Globo [Lisbon], April 28).

There are suspicions in Angola that ECOWAS is determined to undermine the CPLP nations’ traditional ties with Guinea-Bissau by using the military intervention to support the installation of pro-ECOWAS individuals in senior positions of the government and security services (O Pais [Luanda], April 20).  The military junta in Bissau has issued a statement that the arrival of foreign troops in Guinea-Bissau would be regarded as an invasion and resisted by the military (VOA, April 20).

However, not all the Angolan troops may be on their way back to Luanda. The CPLP has suggested that some of the Angolans might be incorporated into the ECOWAS mission after taking into account “the experience of MISSANG on the ground” in Guinea-Bissau (O Pais Online [Luanda], April 20). French foreign minister Alain Juppé has indicated that France could provide the ECOWAS mission with “logistical, material or intelligence support” (AFP, April 27).

Although the latest coup has been bloodless so far, there are reports that PAIGC MPs and party officials have been arrested in significant numbers. There are fears that a military intervention could produce violent resistance and possibly launch the beleaguered nation into a new civil war.

Politics in Guinea-Bissau resembles a gangland struggle for supremacy, a view that has been given added credence by the emergence of the nation as a major transshipment point for narcotics. The coup appears to have been designed to prevent any meaningful reform of the security services that would inhibit the existing military leadership from continuing to enrich themselves through the facilitation and protection of narcotics traffickers.

Note:

1. Report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, on the Situations in Guinea Bissau, Mali and between the Sudan and South Sudan, delivered to the AU Peace and Security Council, April 24, 2012.


 
 

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