China warns of threat to games as it carries out executions


CHINA:WITH LESS than a month to go until the Olympic Games in Beijing, China is keeping a strong focus on security, warning of an unprecedented threat to the games, as reports emerged from restive Xinjiang of the execution of two Islamic extremists, writes Clifford Coonanin Beijing.

The crackdown in Xinjiang, home to a large Muslim population, is motivated by Olympic security concerns, the government said. A similar tightening of security in Tibet is also aimed at ensuring the safety of visitors to the games, which start on August 8th, the administration added.

Mukhtar Setiwaldi and Abduweli Imin were convicted in November of separatist activities, training at a terrorist camp, and illegally manufacturing explosives. They were picked up during a raid on what the Chinese said was a terrorist camp in the Pamir mountains in January 2007. Authorities claimed to have killed 18 members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, which Beijing accuses of terrorist ties, during the raid and arrested 17.

Radio Free Asia reported how the Kashgar Intermediate People's Court read out the death sentences at a public sentencing on July 9th in Yengi Sheher county, before they were taken away and sent for execution.

Meanwhile, three other Uighurs were given two-year suspended death sentences and the remaining 12 were given jail terms ranging from 10 years to life.

Late last week, China said it had foiled five "terrorism groups" plotting attacks on the Olympics and detained 82 people in Xinjiang for plotting to sabotage the games.

Police shot dead five knife-wielding Muslims and detained 10 others in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, last week, who allegedly wanted to launch a "holy war" against the country's dominant Han Chinese.

Olympic security measures have been stepped us over recent days, with security checks on roads, extra security at airports and at train and subway stations.

There will also be stricter controls at borders, including tough new visa application requirements.

From July 20th there will be checkpoints on all roads leading into the capital, and last weekend Beijing debuted its new armoured rapid response team, which has 39 new bullet-proof vehicles that will patrol the city during the games.

The unrest in Tibet this year and recent conflicts with Uighur groups in Xinjiang were proof of real threats to sabotage the Olympics, the People's Daily said.

"As far as China is concerned, the international situation and the political environment is becoming increasingly complicated by the day, and the dark clouds of terrorism on our borders are a fact that cannot be ignored," it said.