BEIJING - China has recently broken up a terrorist ring headed by "East Turkistan" separatists, a spokesman with the Ministry of Public Security said Thursday.
The terrorist group was involved in the violent attack targeting border police in China's western most city of Kashgar in Xinjiang that killed 17 people and injured 15 in 2008, ministry spokesman Wu Heping told a press conference.
Also that year, the group detonated explosives in supermarkets, hotels and government buildings to kill two civilians and injure two police in the region's Kuqa County.
"The break-up of the major terrorist ring proves, once again, terrorist groups including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) remains the principal terrorist threat facing China at present and in the near future," Wu said.
Chinese police have caught more than ten members of the terrorist group, including two ringleaders, Wu said.
The two ringleaders, both natives of Xinjiang, were identified as Abdurixit Ablet, 42, and Imin Semai'er, 33.
Police investigations showed Abdurixit Ablet was sent by ETIM separatists from abroad and Imin Semai'er was a backbone member of the group.
The two men and their aides confessed to police that they had prepared knives, axes and self-made explosives, and planned to launch a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang's Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu from July to October 2009, according to Wu.
After the police foiled their plans, they fled to China's southern provinces of Guangdong and Yunnan and contacted leaders of the terrorist group ETIM by email, Wu said.
They asked for road maps from the ETIM as they attempted to cross the border, Wu said.
Police investigations indicated that overseas-based ETIM forces had provided financial aid and sent people to help the two men flee.
Police revealed investigations into an illegal cross border case last year had led them to the three members of the terrorist group.
On December 20 last year, Chinese police received 20 Chinese people who were expelled from an unidentified neighboring country for illegal entry into that country. After investigations, the police found three of them were terrorists at large, according to the ministry spokesman.