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Taliban splinters - many join ISIS-K to support anti-China Uyghur fighters

The Taliban is clearly splintering. While the group is trying to win favour from China, their foot soldiers and field commanders are calling for “jihad” against the Chinese government

Taliban

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 Nov 2021 2:34 AM GMT

NEW DELHI: The Taliban is clearly splintering. While the group is trying to win favour from China, their foot soldiers and field commanders are calling for "jihad" against the Chinese government, citing oppression of Uyghurs and other Muslims in the restive Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

They are blaming the top Taliban leadership for not defending their Xinjiang Muslim brothers, who are under the quash in China. They are also angry with China for blocking a Quran app last month. This app is "trusted by more than 25 million Muslims around the world" and they use it to read or listen to the recitation of the Quran, remind the time of daily prayers, determine the direction of the qibla, watch live coverage of Hajj rituals from Mecca and Medina. According to an Iraqi news website, almashareq.com, these Taliban fighters have joined the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) "to free Muslims from the tyranny of the Chinese government by rising up against the fascist regime."

"China is openly insulting virtues and sanctities and prosecuting its Muslim population and the time has come for Jihad against the Chinese government. As long as we do not use force to suppress the Chinese communist regime, this government will never stop committing atrocities against the country's Muslim population," says the report quoting one Taliban field commander Mohajer in Herat province of Afghanistan.

According to the website, the same sentiments were shared by most of the Taliban fighters who felt betrayed by their leaders. They said that China is the enemy of Muslims but the Taliban government is openly courting the Chinese government for cash.

"Any friendship and intimacy with a government whose hands are stained with Muslim blood is forbidden," says another Taliban fighter Omar Mutasim, adding, "we expected the Taliban government to raise its voice in support of China's innocent Muslim but unfortunately they remained silent."

Though China has yet to recognise the Taliban government, it has engaged with the Taliban and has been exhorting the world to mainstream the Taliban. China is worried about the insurgency in Uyghur-dominated Xinjiang region.

The East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a Uyghur Islamic fundamentalist outfit that operates from the China-Afghanistan border areas of Badakhshan province which is still said to have more than 2000 fighters. In exchange for its support to the Taliban, China sought assurance from the group that they would not let ETIM operate from Afghanistan. The Taliban have now told China that ETIM operatives were pushed to China, where its security forces can tackle the insurgents.

In recent months after the Taliban's take over the country, ISIS-K has intensified high-profile suicide bomber attacks using ETIM's Uyghur fighters. Following continuous meetings between Chinese and Taliban leaders in Kabul last week, the IS linked Khalid Media scorned these meetings calling the Taliban "prostitutes" who pander to Beijing seeking official recognition.

According to various intelligence reports, many Taliban fighters have joined the ISIS-K strengthening its positions in and around Kabul.

"IS leaders are recruiting Taliban fighters who blame the Taliban for being silent on the Chinese oppressions on Uyghurs. IS has also recruited militants from Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and other conflict zones," said one of the UNGC reports published last month.

IS's propaganda paper The Voice of Hind pledges "revenge" against China for "imprisoning the Muslims en masse [sic]," vowing never to let Beijing "put out the light of Islam in China."

"The friendship of Islamic countries with the Chinese government, which is involved in the killing, sexual exploitation, torture and displacement of Uighur Muslims, is a great sin," the paper says.

This anti-China effort isn't new. Early on, from its base in Iraq and Syria, ISIS released videos of Uyghur fighters threatening Beijing. Though the Taliban has been assuring the Chinese leadership that ISIS-K is not a threat, Beijing's intelligence agencies are constantly following the resurgence of ISIS-K.

The Chinese are well aware that Haqqanis have very close relations with ETIM and the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). This was pretty evident when China's Intelligence chief Chen Wenqing met Interior Minister of Afghanistan Sirajuddin Haqqani last month and asked him for the extradition of prominent members of militant outfit ETIM and TIP to China.

According to Afghan experts, this is what the ISIS-K is looking to leverage to become the de-facto voice for Uyghurs in the region. (IANS)

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