An Uygur girl plays badminton in Urumqi on a calm day Tuesday. An Al-Qaida threat, however, was made elsewhere. [Agencies]
Chinese authorities Tuesday alerted its citizens and organizations abroad about potential terrorist attacks, one day after Al-Qaida threatened to target Chinese interests overseas in retaliation for the deaths of Uygurs in Urumqi.
Al-Qaida's Algerian-based offshoot, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), issued the call for reprisals in the wake of the riot in the capital city of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, according to a report sent to China Daily by the international consultancy firm Stirling Assynt, based in London.
AQIM pledged to avenge the deaths of Muslims in Urumqi by targeting the 50,000 Chinese workers in Algeria as well as Chinese projects and workers across northwest Africa.
The Chinese embassy in Algeria issued a statement on its website last night, urging Chinese organizations and citizens in Algeria to be on alert. The Chinese embassy in Tunisia also told China Daily Tuesday that it was aware of the warning from AQIM and was working on plans to fend off any possible threats.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a press conference Tuesday that China will "take any measure necessary to protect the safety of its overseas institutions and citizens."
It was the first time Al-Qaida had threatened an attack against Chinese interests overseas.
The July 5 riot in Urumqi left 184 people dead: 137 ethnic Han, 46 Uygurs and one ethnic Hui, according to government figures.
"The information we provided is very, very real," Justin Crump, head of Terrorism and Country Risk with Stirling Assynt, told China Daily Tuesday.
"Although AQIM appears to be the first arm of Al-Qaida to officially state they will target Chinese interests, others are likely to follow," the Stirling assessment notes.
The firm also said Al-Qaida operatives in Yemen could target Chinese projects to serve their goal of toppling Beijing-friendly President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Crump said Osama bin Laden's group has not threatened to take action against China and Chinese citizens; it is Al-Qaida's North African wing.
"This threat should be taken seriously," the company said, adding that three weeks ago, the group ambushed a convoy of Algerian security forces protecting Chinese engineers, killing 24 Algerians.
"Measures that the Chinese government take to stop riots do not target any specific ethnic population, but the violent crimes that aim to split China and mar the ethnic relationships. We hope Muslim compatriots will understand the truth," Qin Gang said.
"AQIM has been quite active in extreme activities and recruited young bloods from Algeria and Morocco recently. And the group has confronted the Chinese authorities before," said Yin Gang, a senior expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Yin said it is possible that more terrorist networks may vow to attack Chinese in other regions of the world, but it is unlikely.
"Al-Qaida leader bin Laden himself has said that his target is not China," Yin said.
Zhang Xiaodong, secretary-general of the China Association of Middle East Studies, said although AQIM has issued a threat, there is no proof of pro-separatist groups working with Al-Qaida to stage violence.
"Only a small handful of secessionists has tried to link themselves to Al-Qaida," Zhang said.
Feng Feng contributed to the story