China warns citizens of Algerian al-Qa'ida threat

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The Independent Online

China has warned its citizens in Algeria about possible attacks from al-Qa'ida in retribution for a Chinese government crackdown in the Muslim region of Xinjiang, and security has been tightened around Beijing's missions in the Philippines.

The Chinese embassy in Algeria on its web site urged all Chinese people and organisations to be more aware of safety precautions and to strengthen security measures "in consideration of the situation after the July 5 incident in Urumqi".

The warning came after London risk consultancy Stirling Assynt said in a report to clients that al-Qa'ida might target Chinese workers in northwest Africa, citing "chatter" after the July 5 ethnic riots in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang.

"China has been reminding overseas Chinese to pay attention to their safety and enhance self protection ... China will take any necessary measure to protect the safety of Chinese organisations and citizens overseas," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters yesterday when asked to comment on the report.

In the Philippines, which is battling a Muslim insurgency in its south, the government has ordered security to be tightened around the Chinese embassy and consulates, said Andres Caro, head of the national police directorate.

Caro said police had asked intelligence units to investigate threats against China's interests after Liu Zhongxiang, China's defence attache in Manila, requested police assistance to guard the embassy and consular offices.

"There was information that local terrorists associated with these Chinese terrorists/supporters are planning to initiate attacks against Chinese embassies in various countries," Caro told reporters, quoting a letter sent by Liu.

Security is heavy in Uighur neighbourhoods of Urumqi and other cities in Xinjiang after ethnic riots killed 184 people and wounded more than 1,600. About 1,000 people have been detained.

Exiled Uighur organisations said they opposed all forms of violence and condemned the reported al Qaeda threat.

The Uyghur (also spelt Uighur) American Association and the World Uyghur Congress are "extremely disturbed by reports that the North African wing of al-Qa'ida has threatened to attack Chinese workers in Africa in revenge for the deaths of Uyghurs in East Turkestan", the exiled groups said in an emailed statement.

They said they advocated basic human rights and self-determination for Uighurs, a Turkic people who are largely Muslim and share linguistic and cultural bonds with Central Asia and who now make up less than half the region's population of 20 million.

Chinese workers have been kidnapped, and Chinese convoys attacked, over the past few years in many parts of the world with heavy Chinese investment, including Pakistan and Niger.

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