Chinese courts in the restive, western region of Xinjiang have jailed 45 people on terrorism-related charges, including 18 convicted of organizing illegal border crossings, state-run media reported Thursday. Among them were at least eight people - most likely minority Uighur Muslims - who were sentenced to prison terms on charges of trying to leave China unlawfully, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Beijing has recently come under international criticism after it succeeded in having sent back to China about 100 Uighurs who had sought refuge in Thailand. The men were filmed being hooded, cuffed and escorted to China under tight police watch. Authorities have said the Uighurs seeking to leave China are influenced by religious extremism and planning to join jihad, or holy war. Advocates for Uighurs say they are fleeing China to escape repression.
The eight who were sentenced included five people who were given eight to 10 years by a court in Kashgar, after being captured by Tajikistan police near the border with Afghanistan, Xinhua said. The news agency said they had met frequently to read about religious extremism and plotted to move abroad to join jihad.
Read more: Reuters
Islamist al Shabaab militants killed at least seven people including a regional official and local police commander in an attack on a government convoy in southern Somalia on Wednesday, officials and the group said. Al Shabaab attacked the convoy between Garbaharey and Baladhawo towns in the Gedo region, near the Kenyan border. The al Qaeda-allied group frequently launches attacks on officials in its bid to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam on the nation, which is struggling to rebuild after two decades of war.
The group now controls increasingly smaller patches of territory since an African Union force and Somali troops drove it out of major strongholds in an offensive launched last year. "We ambushed them but it turned into a fierce battle later," al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters. He said 18 people were killed.
Senior Somali police officer Elmi Nur said three militants and seven others, including a deputy district commissioner and a regional police commander, were killed. "We have been launching operations to eliminate al Shabaab from the region. More police and military were sent after the ambush to chase the fighters hiding in the forested areas," he said. Al Shabaab often cites higher numbers for those killed than official figures.
Pakistan's 36 airports were placed on high alert Thursday, with security heightened because of concerns over retaliation by militant groups.
Earlier this week, Pakistani military forces began a ground offensive against the Taliban in North and South Waziristan, in which five soldiers and six Taliban members were reported killed.
Read more: UPI
Thai police said on Thursday they were looking at arrivals of Turkish nationals in the days before a Bangkok bomb attack that killed 20 people, but authorities in Turkey said they had received no request for assistance with the investigation.
Police in Thailand and some security analysts have raised the possibility of a connection in the Aug. 17 blast to the Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighur minority from the far west of China, who complain of Chinese government persecution. The blast at the Hindu Erawan Shrine, popular with Asian tourists, killed 20 people, more than half of them foreigners.
Thailand last month deported more than 100 Uighurs to China, sparking condemnation by rights groups and a protest outside Thailand's consulate in Istanbul. The treatment of Uighurs is an important issue for many Turks, who see themselves as sharing a common cultural and religious background.
Thai media reported that police were investigating 15 to 20 Turkish people who had entered the country over the two weeks before the blast. National police spokesman Prawut Thavornsiri, asked about the reports, confirmed that police had been looking into the arrival of Turkish people.
Read more: Reuters