URUMQI, China - A Chinese Islamic group that has threatened to attack the Beijing Olympics released a new video warning Muslims to avoid being on planes, trains and buses with Chinese at the games, a US group that monitors militant organizations said yesterday.
The video was purportedly made by the Turkistan Islamic Party, which seeks independence for China's western Xinjiang region, the SITE Intelligence Group said. The militants are believed to be based in Pakistan, where security experts say core members have received training from Al Qaeda.
Last month, the group issued videotaped threats and claimed responsibility for a series of bus bombings in China. The new video, issued just ahead of today's opening of the games, features graphics similar to ones used earlier: a burning Olympics logo and an explosion imposed over an apparent Olympic venue.
The speaker in the six-minute video wears a black turban and covers his face. Gripping a Kalashnikov rifle, he speaks in the Turkic language of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority in Xinjiang. The Uighurs have a long history of tense relations with the central government.
Urging Muslims to "choose your side," the man warns: "Do not stay on the same bus, on the same train, on the same plane, in the same buildings, or any place the Chinese are," according to a translation by SITE.
The Washington-based IntelCenter, another agency that monitors militant groups, identified the speaker as Abdullah Mansour from the Turkistan Islamic Party's religious education department.
More than 100,000 soldiers and police are guarding Beijing and other Olympic cities. Terrorism experts say the heavy security would likely force attackers to target less-protected areas.
"I think the actual Olympics themselves, the venues, the guests, the athletes, are going to be safe," said Drew Thompson, director of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington.
This week, Chinese authorities say two Uighurs staged one of the most audacious attacks in years in Xinjiang. The men stole a truck and rammed it into a group of 60 border police in Kashgar, a small city near the border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The men continued the attack with homemade bombs and knives, killing 16 police, officials said. The men were later arrested.
Xinjiang's capital, Urumqi, appeared to be on high alert yesterday. Security guards checked bags at the entrances of hotels, department stores and discos. Guards rode on most public buses, watchful for attackers. Small groups of police patrolled the sidewalks of the bustling Muslim quarter.