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China's anti-terrorism efforts ep.3: Xinjiang terrorist suspect tells his story

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Ekber is another man who received militant training overseas. He was arrested on his return from Syria. He told how he had been trained by the East Turkestan Islamic Movement.

In early 2013, Ekber met a man named Eli, who claimed to know a lot about religion. Eli told Ekber that he could martyr himself and go to heaven.

"I read in books that if a Muslim commits suicide, he will go to hell. I watched jihad videos of suicide bombings. That's suicide. And according to the books they will go to hell. I thought it was contradictory, and asked him about this. He told me that suicide for personal reasons is different from dying for jihad. Dying for Jihad is dying for religion.

"It's not suicide but martyrdom. That's what he said. There were many young people of my age. Eli knew the most about religion. We all asked religious questions."

Based on Ekber's account, police were able to track down Eli to the terrorist group Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement.

"Eli brainwashed them with extremist thoughts and let them watch jihad videos. When they wanted to conduct jihad, he told them how, gave them money, and introduced them to the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. He told the ETIM to guide them to Turkey and Syria," a policeman said.

Encouraged by Eli, Ekber went to Turkey. He went by the name of Abdurahman. But when he got to Turkey, he found that it was not as he had imagined.

"I thought women would all wear the Niqab, and men would all have a full beard. But I found out Turkish people are just like people in Xinjiang. And there was a lot of consumerism, and people were all busy. That's what I saw."

In Istanbul, Eli told Ekber the time had come for Jihad.

"When I got to Turkey, Eli told me that he will put me in a place to do Jihad.".

Eli arranged for Ekber and others to travel to the border city of Antalya and sneak into war-torn Syria.

"The ticket seller asked for our names. Eli told me to tell them our fake names and we did as he said. And we got our tickets."

Guided by a Turkish man, Ekber then met up with an armed smuggling gang in Syria. They took away all the money he had.

"The Turkish man took 80 lira from each of us. And an Arab man took from us 220 lira. The Arab man gave us a ride to his home, gave us tea and sweets. I was moved and thought he was serving fellow Muslims. But as we left, he charged us for what he had done. I then knew it was all about money."

Aftering arriving in Syria, Ekber was recruited into an armed group and started to train with them.

"Looking back on those days, I feel so regretful. The living conditions are harsh. I had seen Jihad videos, and had thought everything would like that. But things were totally different. Life was so difficult. Seven to eight people crammed in one small room. When it rained, mud went everywhere. "

"We couldn't do anything but stay in the room. I learned how to make explosive devices there. We depended on others for our living. The food and clothes were all delivered to us. We didn't have anyone to talk to."

Ekber's confusion only grew.

"What we wore were old clothes given to us by an Arab man. We fought to get them. We ate canned beef produced in Europe without the Halal mark. Muslims care about food. Seeing all this, I really can't understand why we stayed there, having to rely on others, eating and wearing everything they give. I really can't undersrand."

In three months, Ekber learnt how to use guns and make explosives. He was encouraged by Eli to carry out terrorist attacks in China.

"I came back with the intention to carry out bombings. I planned to raise some money first and then carry out the attack. "

Ekber snuck back to Turkey to make his return journey.

"It was not difficult to shuttle between Turkey and Syria. There was just a small river to cross without water. No other big barriers. I heard there were only two ways for jihadists to go to Syria, either via Iraq or Turkey. All European jihadists went to Syria through Turkey. "

At the beginning of this year, Ekber crossed back into China and started his preparations.

"I planned to make some money in Shijiazhuang city and search for explosive materials. I wanted to have enough money so that I can stay there. I wanted to bomb a shopping mall. My plan was to train others once I arrive in the city and instruct them to bomb other cities."

"Two days after he returned to China, Ekber phoned Eli via Talkbox. He told Eli that he arrived safely. The East Turkistan Islamic Movement congratulated him," police said.

Ekber thought nobody knew about his plot in the making. But then he was arrested. His parents had thought he was studying abroad. His father was travelling to see him in jail, when he died of a sudden illness on the way. Knowing the pain that he brought onto himself and his family, Ekber said he finally realised who jihad really hurts."


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