The New Great Game Round Up- November 3, 2013

ETIM Attacks Tiananmen Square, Inspired By Al-Qaeda’s “Inspire”, Kazakh Terrorists Practice in Syria & More!

*The Great Game Round-Up brings you the latest newsworthy developments regarding Central Asia and the Caucasus region. We document the struggle for influence, power, hegemony and profits in Central Asia and the Caucasus region between a U.S.-dominated NATO, its GCC proxies, Russia, China and other regional players.

Last Monday, China’s famous Tiananmen Square became quite unexpectedly the scene of another tragic event. Three individuals drove an SUV with a Xinjiang license plate through a crowd of people. The horror ended when the car crashed and burst into flames. Two innocent bystanders were killed along with the three occupants of the vehicle and 40 people were injured. Chinese police later identified the SUV driver as Usmen Hasan and his two passengers as his mother Kuwanhan Reyim and his wife Gulkiz Gini.

Doubts about the nature of this incident were quickly dispelled when police searched the SUV and rounded up several suspects in connection with the attack:

Police identify Tiananmen car crash as terrorist attack Chinese police have identified Monday’s deadly crash at downtown Beijing’s Tiananman Square as a terrorist attack and five suspects have been detained. Police found gasoline, equipment full of gasoline, two knives and steel sticks as well as a flag with extremist religious content in the jeep.

ETIM Attacks Tiananmen Square 

Local police found similar items in the residence of the five arrested suspects who were apparently taken by surprise:

Five detained over Tian’anmen terrorist attack Police have also found knives and at least one “jihad” flag in the temporary residence of the five detained suspects.

According to the spokesman, they admitted that they knew Usmen Hasan and conspired to plan and carry out the attack. They said they had not expected that the police could capture them only about 10 hours after the incident.

According to Chinese authorities, the attack was “carefully planned, organized and premeditated”. After all, the terrorists were undeterred by increased state security just weeks before the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) convenes its third plenum. China’s top security official linked the Tiananmen Square crash to the Islamic terrorist group which has the most experience in destabilizing China and was therefore recently banned by Pakistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM):

‘East Turkistan’ behind Tian’anmen crash

A fatal vehicle crash in Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square was planned by a Uyghur separatist group, designated as a terrorist organization by the US and UN, said China’s top security official, Meng Jianzhu.

Meng Jianzhu, chief of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, blamed the incident on the “East Turkistan” forces.

In response to the latest terror attack, Meng Jianzhu called for closer anti-terrorism cooperation between the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization when he briefed the Executive Committee of the SCO’s Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) on the Tiananmen Square incident. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying explained that terrorist groups like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement target SCO member countries to hamper their development and she stressed China’s problems with the ETIM:

China cites East Turkistan Islamic Movement terrorist threat

“The ETIM has incited, organized and committed terrorist attacks of various forms in China over the years and spread the ideas of violence and terrorism. It has been the most direct and real threat to our security, and has damaged the security of other countries and regions,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying at a routine press briefing.

However, the ETIM is not working on its own behalf and it is important to note the real players behind the East Turkestan project.

In China the latest terror attack caused a state of shock and the Chinese authorities reacted immediately by stepping up security:  

China state media calls for stern action after Tiananmen attack Chinese state media demanded severe punishment on Thursday to put down what China has said is a holy war aimed at Beijing by Islamist militants from the restive Xinjiang region. Security has been strengthened in both Beijing and in Xinjiang in the far west after an SUV ploughed through bystanders in the capital’s iconic Tiananmen Square on Monday and burst into flames.

Inspired By Al-Qaeda’s “Inspire”?!

Although Tiananmen Square is permanently under heavy security with uniformed and plainclothes police watching the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, the tragic incident could not be prevented. China’s vast police and intelligence apparatus was apparently not prepared for this unusual terror attack. If this was due to a failure of imagination, more people in Beijing should start reading al-Qaeda’s supposed online magazine Inspire:

Al-Qaeda in Xinjiang Autonomous Region? For some time now, the authors of Inspire Magazine have been encouraging readers to carry out vehicle-borne attacks. For example, the second edition of the magazine encourages prospective terrorists to turn a pickup truck into a human lawn mower by placing large steel blades on the vehicles. “The idea is to use a pickup truck as a mowing machine, not to mow grass but mow down the enemies of Allah,” the article reads. It adds: “The ideal location is a place where there are a maximum number of pedestrians and the least number of vehicles. In fact if you can get through to ‘pedestrian only’ locations that exist in some downtown (city center) areas, that would be fabulous.”

The authenticity of Inspire is not beyond dispute. Since Anwar al-Awlaki, Washington’s favorite al-Qaeda recruiter and spokesman, was one of the main individuals involved with the magazine, it is reasonable to question the driving force behind al-Qaeda’s PR campaign.

Speaking of propaganda and lacking credibility, Rebiya Kadeer and her NED-funded World Uyghur Congress (WUC) are now the most quoted sources in Western mainstream media with regard to the Tiananmen Square attack:

Uighur leader questions China’s account of Tiananmen attack Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World Uighur Congress, called the attack tragic but was equivocal on whether Uighurs – a Muslim people from China’s far western region of Xinjiang – had carried it out. Kadeer, who lives in the Washington area, warned against accepting at face value China’s account of the incident.

Of course no media outlet cares to mention Kadeer’s interesting background and the significant fact that the WUC is funded by the United States government, as thoroughly discussed in a previous round-up.

But the propaganda campaign is currently not the biggest problem of the Chinese government. The crash in the center of Beijing is seen by some experts as an indication for a major shift of terrorist activities in China, which had been largely limited to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region until now. This comes at an inconvenient time since Chinese President Xi Jinping is seeking to implement far-reaching economic reforms:

Crash a symbol of China reform struggle The reforms should eventually cripple the large and inefficient state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that pollute and distort the market, and instead provide fairer conditions for the private enterprises that have been driving national development for decades, but are officially only Cinderellas at the court of the Chinese state.

Although the reforms are necessary, opposition to Xi Jinping’s plans is growing and a political struggle could divide the country:

This step is crucial to ensure that China’s growth continues to be rapid in the coming decades and doesn’t get bogged down around 2020, when a Soviet-style meltdown of the economy could otherwise become inevitable. However, the reforms are already creating legions of enemies for Xi. Many state officials, large and small, rightly fear in a reduction in their power and their sinecures.

So Beijing faces several major challenges simultaneously. At least the New Silk Road gives cause for rejoicing with projects like the Western Europe-Western China highway making good progress:

1,721 km of Western Europe-Western China highway to be opened to traffic by year-end A total of 1,721 kilometers of Western Europe – Western China highway will be opened to traffic by the end of this year, Minister of Transport and Communications of Kazakhstan Askar Zhumagaliyev told a briefing in the Central Communications Service. The construction of the highway of international significance began in 2009. The total length of the international transit corridor is 8,445 km. The length of the road via the territory of Kazakhstan is 2,787 km, of which 2,452 km are subject to reconstruction.

Kazakhstan plays a central role in China’s New Silk Road. The Central Asian country offers not only an important transit route but also much-needed energy. KazMunaiGas (KMG), Kazakhstan’s national oil and gas company, has just completed the purchase of ConocoPhillips’ 8,4 percent share in the giant Kashagan oil field. This share will subsequently be resold by KMG to state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Kazakh oil will flow to China. 

Kazakh Terrorists Practice in Syria

While Beijing’s economic projects are already threatened by the East Turkestan forces, Astana is worried that a similar terrorism problem could develop in Kazakhstan. Many people in the country were shocked when a video was posted online showing dozens of foreign militants in Syria including at least two Kazkah men: 

Relatives Identify Purported Kazakh ‘Jihadists’ In Video

Family members have identified two men who appear in a video of purported Kazakh jihadists preparing to wage war Syria, and are asking authorities to help bring them home.

In a written response to questions from RFE/RL, the National Security Committee said it was “aware that some Kazakh citizens are fighting abroad” and that efforts are under way to return them to Kazakhstan.

The concern of Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency is definitely justified, as the recent arrest of two suspected terrorists demonstrates:

2 Kazakh Syrian insurgency suspects in custody Two men suspected of terrorist activity in Syria are in Kazakhstani custody, Tengri News reported October 28, citing the Kazakhstani National Security Committee (KNB) press office.

So Astana takes appropriate measures to contain the threat. Counter-terrorism exercises are being held regularly in Kazakhstan and the Kazakh authorities launched a crackdown on unregistered religious unions in order to prevent the spreading of radical movements of Islam:

Unregistered religious unions to be liquidated by year end in Kazakhstan All the unregistered religious unions are going to be liquidated in Kazakhstan by the end of this year, Tengrinews reports citing Vice-Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Religious Agency Marat Azilkhanov.

He reminded that the re-registration slashed the number of religious unions in Kazakhstan by 32 percent and down to 3088 as of October last year.

Furthermore, a new counter-terrorism and anti-extremism strategy has been developed. Under this new strategy a particularly important task is assigned to the Spiritual Board of the Muslims of Kazakhstan (SBMK), the main religious body in the country. The SBMK has formed six special groups to monitor the “religious situation” in the country and to talk to “people who need religious enlightenment”:

Kazakhstan Unveils New Counter-Terrorism and Anti-Extremism Strategy

Indeed, the cleric claims that the campaign to date has persuaded “92 people” to quit the Salafi movement and return to traditional Islam. The groups visited 62 towns, 122 districts, 33 settlements, 200 higher and secondary educational establishments, and 1,500 schools; most of these were located in the Western region of Kazakhstan—the area most prone to religious extremism (Interfax, October 2).

Terrorism, Missile Defense System Plague Russia

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s northern neighbor fails to come up with an adequate strategy for its terrorism problem. The ongoing terror campaign has not only taken a heavy toll on the Russian population but has also had a lasting effect on Russian politicians. Proposed measures for dealing with terrorism in the North Caucasus are becoming more and more radical:

Uproar after LibDem leader suggests curfew, birth control to tackle terrorism in N. Caucasus The leader of Russia’s nationalist LDPR party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, may face criminal charges for “inciting ethnic and religious hatred” following his proposal to implement birth control in the North Caucasus as an anti-terrorist measure. Zhirinovsky said on the program that since the main terrorist threat in the country comes from the Caucasus, the whole region should be fenced off with barbed wire. “We must bring the military, police and FSB [Federal Security Service] there” and impose a curfew, he said.

Zhirinovsky clearly went overboard and so far not everybody is demanding a curfew as a last resort. There are still some other ways to address the problem. Ramazan Abdulatipov, President of Dagestan, used a televised interview to voice his concern about Dagestani youth studying abroad:

Leader Urges Return of Dagestani Students from Terrorist Trouble Spots The president of the restive southern Russian republic of Dagestan called on local parents who have children studying at Islamic schools in the countries “troubled by terrorism” to bring them back home.

Abdulatipov suggested establishing an Islamic University in Dagestan thereby preventing local students from visiting Islamic schools in countries “troubled by terrorism”. Although other parts of Russia recently experienced increasing terrorist activities, Dagestan continues to be the terrorism epicenter. Local police stumble across arms caches on a regular basis. However, the latest discovery was out of the ordinary:

Bomb-Making Workshop With Suicide Belts and Wigs Found in Dagestan Police in Russia’s turbulent republic of Dagestan have found a large bomb-making workshop apparently run by gunmen, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday. Officers later uncovered a workshop with 13 suicide belts and two women’s wigs, which were used by the gunmen for “clandestine movement” while preparing for the terrorist attacks.

But small victories like this are not enough stop the terror campaign. While the head of Russia’s police force, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, announced that terrorist attacks had decreased by 50 percent in the last three years, another twin blast ripped through Makhachkala: 

Two people die, 15 injured as twin blasts rock Russia’s Dagestan capital Two people has been killed, and at least 15 more have been hospitalized after a double explosion hit Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s restive Dagestan region, according to the country’s Emergencies Ministry.

The attack occurred outside two adjacent liquor stores on one of the city’s liveliest streets. It appears to have been set off by remotely-activated charges, and fire appears to have spread to neighboring stores.

So there is no end in sight to the U.S.-led destabilization of Russia’s North Caucasus and from the opposite side of the Black Sea more bad news reach the Kremlin:

Romania builds base for US missile system Romania Oct. 28 started building a military base, which will host a U.S. ballistic missile defense system as part of the NATO system.

Last week, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu once again criticized Washington’s reluctance to take Moscow’s concerns about the missile “defense” system into account. And since talks between the two sides have not yielded any results, Russia expedites the modernization of its Strategic Missile Forces:

Russia to upgrade all missile systems by 2021 Russian Strategic Missile Forces (RVSN) would be fully equipped with fifth-generation missile systems by 2021, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday. According to the spokesman, the modernization was aimed at building the capacity to penetrate the anti-missile defense systems being deployed by NATO and the United States.

NATO member Romania will also host Washington’s Afghanistan logistics hub after the United States have been kicked out of the Transit Center at Manas by the Kyrgz government:

US begins shifting Afghan logistics hub from Kyrgyzstan to Romania The Pentagon has begun transitioning its Afghanistan air logistics base to Romania and plans to complete the shift from Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan by July 2014 when its contract ends.

Kyrgyzstan’s decision was encouraged by Moscow and the Kremlin lost no time in capitalizing on the departure of U.S. forces:

Russia To Double Presence At Kyrgyzstan Air Base

Following quickly on the announcement of the U.S.’s departure from its air base in Kyrgyzstan, Russia has promised that it will double the number of aircraft at its base in the country, Kant. Over the weekend, during tenth-anniversary celebrations the Kant base, a senior Russian air force official said that the number of aircraft at Kant would “at least double” by December, and that the number of personnel would increase as well.

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Christoph Germann- BFP Contributing Author & Analyst
Christoph Germann is an independent analyst and researcher based in Germany, where he is currently studying political science. His work focuses on the New Great Game in Central Asia and the Caucasus region. You can visit his website here


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Comments

  1. The online AQ magazine should be called ‘conspire’ .

  2. avatar CuChulainn says:
  3. CuChulainn Please..

    Spanish English Danish..

    I am living in Denmark
    and do not read Spanish..

    But I would love to understand.

    kind regards.

  4. CuChulainn or Italien

    SORRY…

    There are A lot of
    information from you.

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