ISIS militants from China‘s Muslim minority group have vowed to return home and shed rivers of blood in the terror group’s first video to target the country.
The 30-minute clip was released on Monday by a branch in Iraq and features a man being executed in the presence of a child as well as claiming to show the life of Chinese terrorists based in the Middle East.
Young boys are seen practicing martial arts and assembling assault rifles in the video, which threatens bloodshed in the biggest country in the world.
The video shows groups of youngsters understood to be Uighur militants from China’s Xinjiang province sitting and listening to preachers as well as issuing threats.
It was released by a division of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in western Iraq and featuring militants from China’s Uighur ethnic group, said the US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which analysed the footage.
China has for years blamed exiled Uighur ‘separatists’ for a series of violent attacks in its western Xinjiang region – the Uighur homeland – and warned of the potential for militants to link up with global militant groups.
The Uighur community is of Turkish origin and has regularly clashed with the government with Islamism usually at the heart of the conflict.
In the video, a Uighur fighter issued the threat against China just before executing an alleged informant.
‘Oh, you Chinese who do not understand what people say.
‘We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed,’ according to SITE’s translation.
A traditionally Muslim group, many Uighurs complain of cultural and religious repression and discrimination by China.
It appears to be Islamic State’s first direct threat against China, Dr Michael Clarke, an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College of Australian National University, told AFP.
‘It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to IS,’ he added, referring to the group by its other name.
The video showed China is now ‘very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric,’ Clarke said, marking a shift from years past when it rarely figured in statements by global militant groups.
But Clarke said it also could indicate a possible split among Uighur fighters, as it includes a warning to those fighting with the Al Qaeda-aligned Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in Syria.
China maintains tight security in Xinjiang but a drumbeat of deadly unrest has continued.
A knife attack last month left eight dead, including three attackers, police said.
The ISIS video showed fighters, including heavily armed children, giving speeches, praying, and killing other ‘informants’.
It also featured images of Chinese riot police guarding mosques, patrolling Uighur markets, and arresting men in what appears to be western China. The Chinese flag is pictured engulfed in flames.
Clarke said the hints of a Uighur split could ‘intensify the threat to China’ as it indicates Uighur militants may be able to tap into the capabilities of both ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
Overseas experts have up to now expressed doubts about the strength of Uighur militants, with some saying China exaggerates the threat to justify tough security measures.
A US think-tank said in July that tough Chinese religious restrictions on Muslims may have driven more than 100 to join ISIS.
Authorities have banned or strictly controlled the observance of certain Muslim practices, such as growing beards, wearing headscarves, and fasting during Ramadan, saying they were symbols of ‘Islamic extremism’.
The video was released the same day that China held the latest in a series of mass rallies of military police in Xinjiang meant to indicate Chinese resolve in crushing security threats.
More than 10,000 officers gathered Monday in the region’s capital Urumqi – the fourth such rally this year in Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities have tightened controls in the region, beefing up police checkpoints.
In one violence-wracked corner of Xinjiang, authorities are offering rewards of up to 5 million yuan (S$1 million) to those who expose terror plots or ‘struggle, kill, wound, or subdue’ any attackers.