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China says fleeing Uighurs want to bring holy war home

A Uighur woman walks on a street in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang. Photo: AFP

Uighurs from China's Xinjiang who have traveled to Turkey via Southeast Asia are being trained in Syria and Iraq with the aim of bringing jihad back to China, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

China's Foreign Ministry said that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group Beijing says seeks an independent state in Xinjiang, finds followers from the region to seek training in the Middle East with the intent of returning to wage jihad.

"Terrorist extremists from within China's borders are recruited to illegally exit the country. Through Southeast Asian countries they go to Turkey and from there head to the so-called holy wars in Syria and Iraq, receive terrorist training and bide their time to return," the ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters.

"This not only seriously damages China's national security, but also is a threat to the security and stability of other relevant countries and regions," it said.

The comments come as China steps up efforts to bolster its claims that some of the 109 Uighurs deported from Thailand back to China last week posed a security threat, amid global concern about their wellbeing.

Their deportation sparked anger in Turkey, home to a large Uighur diaspora, and fed concern among rights groups and the United States that they could be mistreated upon their return.

In March, Xinjiang's Communist Party chief Zhang Chunxian said that authorities had busted "extremists" that had returned from overseas wars.

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