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China reveals new counterterrorism unit in Xinjiang

By
Elizabeth Shim
China has increased security in Xinjiang Province and has been deploying a counter-terrorism unit since at least 2018. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
China has increased security in Xinjiang Province and has been deploying a counter-terrorism unit since at least 2018. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 21 (UPI) -- China has formed a new counterterrorist special ops unit in Xinjiang, where Beijing has cracked down on suspected dissidents, placing them in "reeducation camps."

The unit under the Chinese People's Armed Police called Mountain Eagle Commando was created for missions in China's westernmost province, China's Global Times and Reference News reported.

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The Chinese government is making the special ops unit public for the first time, according to reports.

Beijing authorities did not confirm when the unit was first formed, but the new operations are being revealed at a time of "military reform."

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Wang Gang, head of Mountain Eagle Commando, told state media the unit has already taken part in more than 10 counterterrorism operations.

Peng Jingtang, chief of staff of the Armed Police Force in Xinjiang, said in 2018 the new unit used about the same amount of ammunition as all other Armed Police units in Xinjiang in three years.

Peng also said the amount of ammunition used has been higher in 2019 than for all 12 months of 2018.

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China retains other counterrorism units, including the Snow Leopard Unit in Guangzhou, which began operations in 2002, and the Falcon Unit, created in 1982 and based out of Beijing.

China has defended its governance of the Xinjiang region amid controversy over the state's treatment of Uighurs, the Muslim minority in western China.

Beijing has claimed "hostile forces inside China, especially separatists, religious extremists and terrorists, are fabricating facts and distorting history in order to divide and destroy China."

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Members of the Turkic Muslim ethnic group are being held in a network of extrajudicial camps in Xinjiang, according to multiple press reports. Foreign journalists who have ventured into the region say they are monitored by authorities who prevent them from accessing the local population.

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