PLA strengthens Xinjiang forces to foil terror attacks

Updated: 2015-01-23 07:36

By Cui Jia in Urumqi and Zhao Lei in Beijing(China Daily)

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China is strengthening its military power in its northwestern frontier region bordering Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The military reinforcement comes against a backdrop of United States troops pulling out of Afghanistan and extremists launching terrorist attacks on civilian targets.

People's Liberation Army troops based in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will vigorously enforce border controls, according to their chief.

Peng Yong, commander of the PLA Xinjiang military region, said the army will continue to carry out "realistic combat training" and increase its ability to carry out a variety of military missions this year.

The Xinjiang military region is a regional command that covers Xinjiang and the Ali area in the west of the Tibet autonomous region. "We have the responsibility to stay on high alert and strike hard against terrorist activities in the region," Peng said.

Peng, a lieutenant general, made the remarks at the annual session of the 12th People's Congress of Xinjiang in Urumqi.

Three more PLA generals have been appointed to the Xinjiang military region, including Li Wei, a major general, who will serve as its commissar. The two other appointees, Ye Jianjun and Han Bingcheng, are also major generals.

Sources familiar with the Chinese military system said Xinjiang is the largest provincial-level military region in China. It has four deputy commanders and four deputy commissars, while other military regions normally have only one deputy commander and one deputy commissar.

Xinjiang shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Xinjiang military region increased the number of routine patrols last year to guard against infiltration by terrorist cells after the planned withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

Li Wei, an expert on anti-terrorism studies at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, who shares the same name as the major general, said, "The PLA troops in Xinjiang will deal with large-scale terrorist forces.

"They will concentrate especially on those carrying firearms smuggled from Pakistan and Afghanistan, rather than on individual terrorist attacks.

"They also need to keep an eye on the combat forces formed jointly by international and domestic terrorist groups."

Li said that following a series of terrorist attacks in Xinjiang, the situation there remains serious.

On July 28, a terrorist attack in the region claimed 37 lives and injured 13 other people. Fifty-nine terrorists were shot dead at the scene and 215 suspects arrested, in one of the deadliest attacks in Xinjiang in recent years.

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