ISTANBUL (AP) — Since 2013, thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from western China, have traveled to Syria to train and fight alongside al-Qaida, playing key roles in several battles.
Rare and extensive Associated Press interviews with nine Uighurs who had left China to train and fight in Syria showed that Uighurs don’t neatly fit the profile of fighters answering the call of jihad.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s troops are now clashing with Uighur fighters as the six-year conflict nears its endgame.
But the end of Syria’s war could be the beginning of China’s worst fears.
Uighur militants have killed hundreds, if not thousands, in attacks inside China in a decades-long insurgency that initially targeted police and other symbols of Chinese authority but in recent years also included civilians.