Uyghur unrest threatens China's relations with Muslim world

Daniel MacArthur-Seal
14 July 2009

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's condemed violence in China's Xinjiang province as "genocide", amongst other notes of solidarity and outrage across the Muslim world sparked by recent events in Urumqi. Erdogan's remarks drew harsh criticism from Chinese media, and Chinese diplomats have demanded a formal apology. Any hope that China could quickly pacify the region, salvaging its international prestige, were dashed in Urumqi yesterday where two Uyghur men who were allegedly calling for jihad were shot by Chinese security forces, large numbers of whom are still in deployment across the city.

The toD verdict: In terms more familiarly directed against western accusations of human rights abuses, the Chinese state condemned Turkey's "interference in Chinese internal affairs" but there is little hope that the wider Muslim world will turn a blind eye to the treatment of the Uyghur population and China's reputation, and even security abroad may suffer.

Perhaps most significantly, al-Qaeda issued a call for vengeance against Chinese workers in Muslim regions, signalling the first direct threat by the terrorist group against Chinese interests. Hamas warned of the dangers of damaging Chinese relations with Muslim people but did not signal any direct threat. In an apparent nod to the risks China's domestic situation now poses abroad, the Chinese foreign minister announced extra precautions would be taken to guard Chinese interests.

Like Turkey, Indonesia bore witness to anti-Chinese riots, where, as in much of South East Asia, Chinese and Muslim populations live alongside. Whether such popular outrage will substantially damage China's close economic and diplomatic relations with much of the Muslim world remains to be seen.

Tribal forces take fight to the Taliban in North West Pakistan

Local officials in Mohmand district of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province reported that 23 Taliban militants had been killed in an attack by a 150 strong pro-government tribal militia in the region. The militia are said to be pursuing the Taliban, who fled to surrounding highlands. The government has pursued a course of supporting local Lashkars, as the tribal militias are known, in regions beyond the pale of the Pakistani state and its security forces. Although the strike is an indication of the effectiveness of such a course, doubts remain over the capacity of Lashkars to systematically suppress Taliban activity.

Meanwhile, an oil truck convoy on route to supply NATO forces in Afghanistan was ambushed approaching the nearby Khyber Pass. Mortar fire preceded a direct attack on the convoy that left two civilians dead and a tanker in flames. It is the latest of several attacks on NATO supply routes in Pakistan which run through Taliban dominated borderlands.

Niger Delta militants strike Lagos

Militants from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) launched a daring first attack on Nigeria's first city. Gunmen disembarked from speedboats and attacked the Atlas Cove Jetty, a facility for tankers to unload fuel, within sight of the city's financial district where multinationals such as Royal Dutch Shell are based. At least eight naval personnel were shot in the raid before the facility was blown up using explosives and the gunmen withdrew. The jetty was damaged "beyond repair", according to the executive of a key oil importing firm. The country, despite being the eighth biggest exporter of crude oil, relies on imported fuel due to the underdevelopment of its refineries and is now likely to face fuel shortages.  

Russian president and US destroyer descend on Georgia

The USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer, weighed anchor of the coast of Georgia ahead of US-Georgian naval exercises widely seen as a show of US strength directed at Russia's attempt to restore its dominance in the Caucasus. The exercises will take place off the Georgian coast, a large portion of which is under the de facto control of the separatist state of Abkhazia. 

The deployment comes a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made a surprise visit to the Russian sponsored breakaway republic of South Ossetia. The visit was denounced by Georgian President Miheil Saakashvili reacted harshly to Medvedev's surpeise visit and meeting with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity, who he denounced as an "unwashed murderer" and "corrupt criminal". 

Gunmen kidnap two French citizens in Mogadishu

Two French citizens were abducted from their hotel by armed men in Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital of Somalia. The men, who have been reported to be either journalists of security consultants, were taken hostage after around ten gunmen disarmed hotel guards on Tuesday morning.

The attack follows a recent outbreak of fighting around the presidential palace in the capital. Militants retreated from their positions around the palace after the active intervention of African Union peacekeepers, leaving scores killed and around 150 wounded after heavy fighting on Sunday. The reported intervention of African Union troops is the first since their deployment under rules of engagement which limit their use of force to self-defence. An African Union spokesmen said the peacekeepers only engaged in a show of force, rather than all-out combat, with the militants.

Mugabe supporters disrupt conference for new Zimbabwe constitution

A conference intended to draft a new constitution for Zimbabwe was disrupted by Zanu-PF supporters of President Robert Mugabe who sang revolutionary songs, threw bottles at politicians and engaged in scuffles with supporters of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The clashes, in which a MDC councillor was badly wounded, forced the cancellation of the event and riot police were deployed to restore order. After the violence subsided, Mugabe and Tsvangirai met and gave a joint press conference at which both stressed the necessity of a new constitution and ruled out an investigation into the origins of Monday's disturbances. The constitution, which it is hoped will give parliament more power to balance the executive, is intended to replace the existing constitution agreed with Britain in 1979.

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