China touts 'success' of crackdown in Muslim region

China said it has foiled 181 terror plots in the year since it started a crackdown on Islamic separatists

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China said it has foiled 181 terror plots in the year since it started a crackdown on Islamic separatists in the northwestern region of Xinjiang that was prompted by a surge of violence that reached as far as the capital Beijing.

Touting the crackdown’s success, state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday showed paramilitary troops conducting drills featuring fleets of helicopters, simulated building assaults and heavy weapons including anti-tank guns and flamethrowers.

The report did not detail how authorities define a terror plot. It said 96 percent of the oiled plots were still in the planning stages. According to the report, 112 suspects have turned themselves in, but no figures were given on those captured or killed by police.

Authorities also have targeted the distribution of video and audio recordings promoting extremism, along with outward signs of religious conservatism among the native Muslim Uighur population such as the wearing of long beards by men and veils by women. Authorities also have tightened controls on both legal and illegal border crossings into neighboring Central Asian states.

The crackdown was launched after a bomb attack last May 22 on a crowded market in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi in which 39 people were killed. That followed an extremely rare attack in Beijing in which five people were killed, including three attackers, when a Jeep mowed down pedestrians in front of iconic Tiananmen Gate.

Then, a knife attack at a train station in the southern city of Kunming about a year ago claimed 29 lives, marking a departure from the militants’ previous targets of government offices, police stations or other symbols of rule by the ethnic Han Chinese majority.

Xinjiang is largely closed to foreign journalists and information about security in the region is difficult to collect and verify.

Beijing says unrest among Uighurs is caused by extremist groups with ties to Islamic terror groups abroad, but has provided little direct evidence.

Uighur activists say public resentment against Beijing is fueled by an influx of Han settlers in the region, economic disenfranchisement and onerous restrictions on Uighur religious and cultural practices.