East Turkestan Islamic Movement

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This article is about an Islamist-based organization. For the nationalist movement, see East Turkestan independence movement.
Turkestan Islamic Party
Etim tip logo.JPG
Turkistan Islamic Party
Active 1997 – present
Ideology Uyghur nationalism
Sunni Islamism
Islamic fundamentalism
Leaders Hasan Mahsum
Abdul Haq
Abdul Shakoor al-Turkistani
Abdullah Mansour[1]
Headquarters North Waziristan, Pakistan
Area of operations China (Xinjiang)
Pakistan (North Waziristan)
Central Asia
Allies Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
Nusra Front
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan[3]
Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA)[4]
Opponents Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg China
Flag of Pakistan.svg Pakistan
Flag of Syria.svg Syria
Flag of Afghanistan.svg Afghanistan

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), also known as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), Turkistan Islamic Movement (TIM), and other names,[a] is an Islamic terrorist and separatist organization founded by Uyghur militants in western China. Its stated goals are the independence of East Turkestan from China. According to the Chinese government, it is a violent separatist movement and is often responsible for terrorist attacks in Xinjiang.[5] According to Chinese report, published in 2002, between 1990 to 2001 ETIM had reportedly committed over 200 acts of terrorism, resulting in at least 162 deaths and over 440 injuries.[6] Since the September 11 attacks, the group has been designated as a terrorist organization by Kazakhstan, United Arab Emirates,[7] China, and the United States.[8]


"If you do not wage jihad, you will never be able to get rid of the oppression of the infidels which makes you abandon the religion and which makes slaves of you. Thus, you will not be able to be rescued from the oppression of this world and the torments of the hereafter, or find eternal happiness until you return to the religion of Allah. . ." - Abdul Haq (Memetiming Memeti), a commander in the Uyghur separatist movement Turkistan Islamic Party (East Turkestan Islamic Movement), from a video released by TIP, February 9. 2009.[9]

"We have to conquer our own country and purify it of all infidels. Then, we should conquer the infidels’ countries and spread Islam. The infidels who are usurping our countries have announced war against Islam and Muslims, forcing Muslims to abandon Islam and change their beliefs." - Abdullah Mansour, current leader of the Uyghur separatist movement Turkistan Islamic Party (East Turkestan Islamic Movement), from “The Duty of Faith and Support,” Voice of Islam/al-Fajr Media Center, August 26, 2009.[10]

Flag of Turkistan Islamic Party

The area known as Xinjiang had been a protectorate of China as early as 60 BC during the Han dynasty when it was part of the Protectorate of the Western Regions and also a protectorate of Tang dynasty China when it was part of the Protectorate General to Pacify the West, though there are numerous periods of independence from China. The historical area of what is modern day Xinjiang consisted of the distinct areas of the Tarim Basin and Dzungaria, and was originally populated by Indo-European Tocharian and Iranic Saka peoples who practiced the Buddhist religion. The area was subjected to Turkification and Islamification at the hands of invading Turkic Muslims during the Islamicisation and Turkicisation of Xinjiang. In the 18th century the Qing Dynasty reorganized the territory as a province, Xinjiang.[11] Yet, Russian influence was strong. Russian Orthodox Old Believers emigrated from Russia to Xinjiang in the early 19th century, and the Russian Civil War accelerated this immigration by adding white émigrés.[12] During China's warlord era in the 1910s-1920s, the Soviet Union propped up the separatist Second East Turkestan Republic, and only accepted Chinese rule when the Chinese communists established the People's Republic of China after the Chinese Civil War.[13] Nevertheless, the Soviet Union distributed Soviet passports among the Central Asian ethnics in Xinjiang to facilitate emigration to Kazakh SSR.[12] After the Sino-Soviet split, the Soviet Union amassed troops on the Russian border with Xinjiang, and bolstered "East Turkestan" separatist movements, which received moral and material support from other regional militant groups.[14] China accused the Soviets of engineering riots, and improved the military infrastructure there to combat it.[12]

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement was founded in 1993 by two natives of Hotan, but it failed to last to year's end. Hasan Mahsum and Abudukadir Yapuquan reorganized the movement in 1997, in the same form that it exists today.[15] In 1998 Mahsum moved ETIM's headquarters to Kabul, taking shelter under Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, ETIM leaders met with Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan to coordinate actions. There, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement dropped the "East" from its name as it increased its domain.[16] The group's infrastructure was crippled after the United States invaded Afghanistan and bombed Al Qaeda bases in the mountainous regions along the border with Pakistan, during which the leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, was killed.[17]

However, ETIM resurged after the Iraq War inflamed mujaheddin sentiment.[18] It expanded its portfolio to attacks on United States interests, such as the U.S. embassy in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).[citation needed] The United States Department of State responded by listing it as a terrorist organization.[citation needed] This greatly weakened ETIM, as it lost sympathy from many Western organizations who would otherwise support its struggle against China.[citation needed] Nonetheless, ETIM circulated a video in 2006 calling for a renewed jihad, and took advantage of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing to gain publicity for its attacks.[16] The ETIM is said to be allied with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan) leading Pakistan being seriously urged by China to take action against militants.[19]

Al-Qaeda support[edit]

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (Turkistan Islamic Party) is allied with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan[20] along with the Pakistani Taliban (Tehreek i Taliban Pakistan)[21] and Al-Qaeda.[22][23]

Al Qaeda appointed TIP (ETIM) member Abdul Haq al Turkistani to their Shura Majlis.[24] Al Qaeda also appointed TIP (ETIM) member Abdul Shakoor Turkistani as military commander of their forces in the FATA region of Pakistan.[25]

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement supporting Jihad in Xinjiang against Chinese, in the Caucasus against the Russians and naming Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan as places of warfare.[26] Zawahiri endorsed "jihad to liberate every span of land of the Muslims that has been usurped and violated, from Kashgar to Andalusia, and from the Caucasus to Somalia and Central Africa".[27] Uyghurs inhabit Kashgar, the city which was mentioned by Zawahiri.[28]

TIP (ETIM) issued a eulogy for Doku Umarov of the Caucasian Emirate upon his death.[29][30][31]

TIP (ETIM) sent the "Turkistan Brigade" (Katibat Turkistani) to take part in the Syrian Civil War,[2] most noticeably in the 2015 Jisr al-Shughur offensive in Idlib.[32][33][34][35][36] TIP (ETIM) members in Syria fight alongside the Al-Qaeda branch Al Nusrah Front and have carried out suicide bombings in the conflict.[37][38][39][40] TIP (ETIM) eulogized and applauded members of its organization who participated in suicide bombings and members who were killed in action in Jisr al Shughur.[41] Members of the group helped other Jihadists enforce religious law in Idlib in Syria such as wrecking alcohol in stores and this was noted that with “support of Allah and by the strike of the fist of the Mujahideen from the Al Nusrah Front, Ahrar al Sham and Turkistan,” that they undertook these actions by a Syrian Jihadist in Jaysh al Fateh.[42] A Jabhat Al Nusra Jihadist called Abu Mohamed Al-Ansari interviewed by VICE News after the Idlib offensive said that "The battle was good, praise be to God. The brothers from all the groups started working together and coordinating. Each faction is responsible for a side. The majority were immigrant brothers from Turkestan. They are the ones who attacked the important points."[43] The spokesman of Jabhat Al-Nusra Abu Maria al-Qahtani claimed that Muslims were "oppressed" in "Turkestan" and that Nusra needs to "defend" them.[44][45] TIP (ETIM) joined in on the Jihadist offensive in the Al-Ghab plain along with Al-Qaeda affiliated Jund al Aqsa against the Syrian army.[46][47]

Turkish connections were used by Uyghur fighters to go into Syria and the humanitarian Uyghur Eastern Turkistan Education and Solidarity Association (ETESA) which is located in Turkey sent Uyghurs into Syria, endorsed the killing of the pro-China Imam Juma Tayir, applauded attacks in China, and posted on its website content from the TIP.[48] Turkish passports were used by Uyghurs who were seeking to contact Mujahidin Indonesia Timor, a pro-ISIS organization in Sulawesi in Indonesia.[49]

After Thailand deported Uyghurs back to China whom China suspected to have "been on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq to join jihad" , John Kirby, a United States State Department spokesman, slammed the move and said Thailand should "allow those remaining ethnic Uighurs to depart voluntarily to a country of their choice".[50]

As part of an effort to reach out to foreign Muslims, on the Ink of Swords (Medad al-Sayouf) Network, an Arabic language magazine titled "Islamic Turkistan" (Turkistan al-Islamia) was issued by ETIM on January 2009 and it described ETIM as "a group of workers for Islam and the mujahideen in the Cause of Allah in order to liberate Turkistan", and said that the aim of ETIM was to "establish an Islamic Caliphate in the light of the Book and the Sunnah", "in the Cause of Allah, promotion of virtue, prevention of vice, and the call to Allah.", to create an Islamic State by means of jihad.[9]

Fellow Al-Qaeda aligned Islamist organizations with the aim of a world wide Islamic Caliphate cooperate with TIP (ETIM) whose own goal is an Islamic State, with TIP fighting against the military of Syria and Pakistan in addition to China and being assisted by Central Asian, Gulf, European, and North American based outfits and the TIP leader Abdullah Mansour used the words "mujahideen" and "jihadi operation" in a Uighur language video produced by Al Qaeda-TIP's Islam Awazi Media Center when TIP took responsibility for the October 29, 2013 Tianmen Square terrorist attack.[51]

In 2013 Islam Awazi released footage of Uyghur TIP members fighting against the Afghan National Army.[52] Islam Awazi released a video showing Burqa clad women being militarily trained by Al-Qaeda with guns and RPGs.[53][54][55] Islam Awazi also released a video of fighters training in eastern Afghanistan.[56] Islam Awazi released a video called "We Are Coming O Buddhists” of a TIP affiliated Uyghur cleric named Sheikh Abu Dhar ‘Azzam who also called for the killing of Buddhists in addition to Chinese, saying "Killing you... Slaughtering you... And cutting off your heads is all good", "Kill you, spill your blood, cut off your head is a good thing", on February 24, 2014.[57][58]

A video released by Islam Awazi showed TIP members ambushing a bomb disposal unit in Afghanistan which was unarmed.[59] One video released by Islam Awazi showed one of their members being knocked over by the SPG-9 he was firing, accompanied by the phrase Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un in Arabic.[60]


The NEFA Foundation, an American terrorist analyst foundation, translated and released a jihad article from ETIM, whose membership it said consisted primarily of "Uyghur Muslims from Western China." The East Turkestan Islamic Movement's primary goal is the independence of East Turkestan.[61] ETIM continues this theme of contrasting "Muslims" and "Chinese", in a six-minute video in 2008, where "Commander Seyfullah" warns Muslims not to bring their children to the 2008 Summer Olympics, and also saying "do not stay on the same bus, on the same train, on the same plane, in the same buildings, or any place the Chinese are".[62]

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna has said that ETIM is closely associated with the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), and that there are "many sympathizers and supporters" of ETIM in the WUC. China has accused the WUC of orchestrating the 2009 ethnic violence in Urumqi; similarly, Gunaratna said that one of ETIM's aims is to "fuel hatred" and violence between the Han and the Uyghur ethnic groups, adding that it represented a threat to China and the Central Asia region as a whole.[63]


In October 2008, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security released a list of eight terrorists linked to ETIM, including some of the leadership, with detailed charges.[64] They are:

Name Aliases Charges Whereabouts
Memetiming Memeti Abdul Haq Leading the organization, inciting ethnic tensions in 2006 and 2007, buying explosives, organizing terrorist attacks against the 2008 Summer Olympics Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[65]
Emeti Yakuf
(Emet Yakuf)
Aibu Abudureheman, Saifula, Abdul Jabar Threatening to use biological and chemical weapons against servicepeople and Western politicians for the 2008 Olympics, disseminating manuals on explosives and poisons Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[66]
Memetituersun Yiming
(Memet Tursun Imin)
Abuduaini Raised funds for ETIM, tested bombs in the run-up to the Olympics Since 2008, Western Asia
Memetituersun Abuduhalike
(Memet Tursun Abduxaliq)
Metusun Abuduhalike, Ansarui, Naijimuding Attacked government organizations, money laundering for ETIM operations, buying vehicles and renting houses for attacks Unknown
Xiamisidingaihemaiti Abudumijiti
(Xemsidinahmet Abdumijit)
Saiyide Recruiting for ETIM in the Middle East, blew up a Chinese supermarket Unknown
Aikemilai Wumaierjiang
(Akrem Omerjan)
Assisted Xiamisidingaihemaiti Abudumijiti in the supermarket attack Unknown
Yakuf Memeti
(Yakuf Memet)
Abudujilili Aimaiti, Abudula, Punjab Sneaked into China illegally to gather information on Chinese neighborhoods, a failed suicide attack against oil refinery Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[67]
Tuersun Toheti
(Tursun Tohti)
Mubaixier, Nurula Organizing a terror team for the 2008 Olympics, buying raw materials for them and requesting chemical formulas for explosives Killed in North Waziristan drone attack[67]

Guantanamo Bay detainees[edit]

The United States captured 22 Uyghur militants from combat zones in Afghanistan in 2006 on information that they were linked to Al-Qaeda.[68] They were imprisoned without trial for five to seven years, where they testified that they were trained by ETIM leader Abdul Haq, at an ETIM training camp. After being reclassified as No Longer Enemy Combatant,[69] a panel of judges ordered them released into the United States. Despite the alarm of politicians that the release of terrorist camp-trained Uyghurs into the United States was unsafe and illegal, they could not be released back to China because of its human rights record.[70] Some of the Uyghurs have been transferred to Palau, and some to Bermuda despite objections by the United Kingdom, but the United States is having difficulties finding governments who will accept the rest.[71]


In 2007, ETIM militants in cars shot Chinese nationals in Pakistani Balochistan and sent a videotape of the attack to Beijing, in retaliation for an execution of an ETIM official earlier that July.[72] ETIM also took credit for a spate of attacks before the 2008 Summer Olympics, including a series of bus bombings in Kunming, an attempted plane hijacking in Urumqi,[69] and an attack on paramilitary troops in Kashgar that killed 17 officers.[73] On June 29, 2010, a court in Dubai convicted two members of an ETIM cell of plotting to bomb a government-owned shopping mall that sold Chinese goods. This was the ETIM plot outside of China or Central Asia. The key plotter was recruited during Hajj and was flown to Waziristan to train.[74] In July 2010, officials in Norway interrupted a terrorist bomb plot, another instance of ETIM branching out of its original regions and cooperating with international groups. New York Times correspondent Edward Wong says that ETIM "give[s] them a raison d'être at a time when the Chinese government has... defused any chance of a widespread insurgency... in Xinjiang."[73]

In October 2013, a suicide attack in Tiananmen Square caused 5 deaths and 38 injuries. Chinese police described it as the first terrorist attack in Beijing's recent history. Turkistan Islamic Party later claimed responsibility for the attack.[75]


Critics say that the threats ETIM itself makes are exaggerated, and that ETIM embellishes its own image and commits psychological warfare against China for its false threats, including forcing it to increase security. Dru C. Gladney, an authority on Uyghurs, said that there was "a credibility gap" about the group since the majority of information on ETIM "was traced back to Chinese sources", and that that some believe ETIM to be part of a US-China quid pro quo, where China supported the US-led War on Terror, and "support of the US for the condemnation of ETIM was connected to that support."[76] The Uyghur American Association has publicly doubted the ETIM's existence.[77]

On June 16, 2009, Representative Bill Delahunt convened hearings to examine how organizations were added to the US blacklist in general, and how the ETIM was added in particular.[78] Uyghur expert Sean Roberts testified that the ETIM was new to him, that it wasn't until it was blacklisted that he heard of the group, and noted that "it is perfectly reasonable to assume that the organization no longer exists at all."[78][dead link] The Congressional Research Service reported that the first published mention of the group was in the year 2000, but that China attributed attacks to it that had occurred up to a decade earlier.[78][dead link]

Stratfor has noted repeated unexplained attacks on Chinese buses in 2008 have followed a history of ETIM targeting Chinese infrastructure, and noted the group's splintering and subsequent reorganization following the death of Mahsum.[79]

Intelligence analysts J. Todd Reed and Diana Raschke acknowledge that reporting in China presents obstacles not found in countries where information is not so tightly controlled. However, they found that ETIM's existence and activities could be confirmed independently of Chinese government sources, using information gleaned from ETIM's now-defunct website, reports from human rights groups and academics, and testimony from the Uyghur detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Reed & Raschke also question the information put out by Uyghur expatriates that deny ETIM's existence or impact, as the Uyghurs who leave Xinjiang are those who object most to government policy, are unable to provide first-hand analysis, and have an incentive to exaggerate repression and downplay militancy. They say that ETIM was "obscure but not unknown" before the September 11 attacks, citing "Western, Russian, and Chinese media sources" that have "documented the ETIM's existence for nearly 20 years".[80]

Designation as a terrorist group[edit]

Countries and organizations below have officially listed the Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist group.

Country Date References
 Russia 2006 [81]

After the 9/11 attacks, ETIM was placed on the United States' Terrorist Exclusion List, which includes organizations conducting terrorist activities.[8]

The group was also classified as 'terrorist' by the following:

See also[edit]


  • ^a The official name of the organization since 1999 is the "Turkistan Islamic Movement", but in English it is known by its old name and acronym, ETIM.[16][62] Other aliases adopted over the years are "East Turkistan Islamic Party", "Allah Party", and "East Turkistan National Revolution Association".[88]


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Further reading[edit]

  • Reed, J. Todd; Raschke, Diana (2010). The ETIM: China's Islamic Militants and the Global Terrorist Threat. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. ISBN 978-0-313-36540-9