BEIRUT // Many don’t speak Arabic and their role in Syria is little known to the outside world, but the Chinese fighters of the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria are organised, battled-hardened and have been instrumental in ground offensives against president Bashar Al Assad’s forces in the country’s northern regions.
Thousands of Chinese militants have come to Syria since the country’s war began in March 2011 to fight against government forces and their allies. Some have joined Jabhat Fatah Al Sham, the group that was known as Jabhat Al Nusra before it announced it was separating from Al Qaeda. Others paid allegiance to ISIL and a smaller number joined factions such as the ultraconservative Ahrar Al Sham.
But the majority of Chinese extremists are with the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, whose vast majority are Chinese Muslims, particularly those from the Turkic-speaking Uighur majority native to China’s Xinjiang region. Their growing role in Syria has resulted in increased cooperation between Syrian and Chinese intelligence agencies who fear those same militants could one day return home and cause trouble there.
Image Credit: Times Asi