China Dismisses Separatist Group's Claim to BombingsBy Daniel Schearf
27 July 2008

Chinese police have dismissed a separatist group's claim that it was responsible for a series of deadly bombings this year. But terrorism experts say the group, the Turkistan Islamic Party, is capable of such attacks and its threats against the Olympic Games should be taken seriously. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The little-known Uighur separatist group released a video saying it carried out two bus bombings this month in Kunming and one in Shanghai in May that killed a total of five people.
Still from undated video showing Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) building a truck bomb to be used by a suicide bomber. Courtesy of IntelCenter. The group also claimed in July it attacked police with an explosive-rigged tractor in eastern Wenzhou city and bombed a plastics factory in southern Guangzhou city.

Chinese police in all four cities say there is no evidence the attacks were acts of terrorism or related to Beijing hosting the Olympics.

But foreign experts say it is too early to dismiss terrorism as a cause.

"We believe that it is likely to be the case that they were responsible for some of the attacks. And, some others it might have been an opportunistic approach by them to try to increase the impact of their statement," said Ben Venzke, the chief executive officer of IntelCenter, a U.S.-based terrorist monitoring group.

In the video, the group's leader says they are planning more attacks on Chinese central cities to target the Beijing Olympics.

He says they will use tactics that have never been employed and that the group is willing to use biological weapons.

Venzke says the group has not demonstrated it has biological weapons, but it has shown it can carry out attacks inside China and its threats should be taken seriously.

"We have at least one video of the group constructing a fairly large truck bomb to be used in a suicide bombing attack. They released videos of executions of security force members and others," he said. "So, they are very much a real terrorist organization that seems to have seized on the fact that the presence of the athletes and the Olympic Games in China presents them with an opportunity to, perhaps for the first time, put their cause, put their fight on the world stage."

The Turkistan Islamic Party is one of several groups seeking independence for China's northwestern Xinjiang province. The group has ties to al Qaida and the East Turkistan Islamic Movement - a Uighur separatist group designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations.

Despite Chinese police dismissing terrorist involvement in the recent bombings, Beijing says the Olympics are facing a real threat from terrorist groups.

Police in Xinjiang say they have cracked five terrorist groups so far this year and detained more than 80 suspected terrorists targeting the Olympics.

Shanghai police last week said they stopped an international terrorist group that planned to attack an Olympic football venue. They gave no details about the group or the alleged plan of attack.

Chinese authorities have shown little evidence of terrorism and human rights organizations say Beijing is using terrorism as an excuse to silence dissent.

Over 100-thousand security members and thousands of hidden cameras and microphones have been deployed in Beijing for the Olympics.

The official Xinhua news agency says the Chinese public has shifted its focus from the best games in history to the more pragmatic "safe games."

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