A car exploded in front of the Chinese embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek on Tuesday, causing casualties, authorities and witnesses said. A Kyrgyz senior security officer told Xinhua that it was a suicide car bombing attack, in which the driver tried to ram the gate of the embassy compound. Three embassy security staff were injured while the suicide bomber is dead.1
The Kyrgyz Republic is a landlocked country which was amongst the first countries to break away from the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1991. The country has been plagued by political and economic instability. It has witnessed two revolutions in year 2005 (The Tulip Revolution) and year 2010 resulting in overthrow of the existing governments. The Kyrgyz Republic not only shares its borders with the troubled Chinese province of Xinjiang, it also has a similar ethnic population of Muslim Turkic people including minority Uyghurs, Tajiks and Kazakhs.
Incidents of terrorism have steadily increased in Kyrgyzstan and the country has banned certain controversial organisations like the Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT) which professes to be a religious-political organisation with the aim to carry the Islamic da’wah in order to change the situation of the corrupt society.2 HuT has also been banned by China and its claim to be a religious-politico entity bears some similarity to Jamaat-ud-Dawa – the social service wing of global terrorist organisation Lashkar- e-Taiba (LeT).
This is also not the first time that such a threat has been faced by China from across its borders. The East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM) is another such terrorist outfit banned in Kyrgyzstan and China that has carried out numerous such attacks in the past. The Chinese government has accused the group of organising violence beyond China’s borders, alleging that ETIM launched two attacks at the Chinese embassy in Turkey in the late 1990s. In 2002, two ETIM members were deported from Kyrgyzstan to China for plotting to attack embassies in Bishkek, although no such attack took place at that time. 3 It is extremely unfortunate that a similar attack has now taken place after almost Fourteen years in the exact same place – namely Bishkek and against the same target – an embassy. What should also be alarming is that Chinese assets had been relatively free from the scourge of suicide attacks so far.
China would do well to learn some lessons from this history. Foiling a terror attack once does not guarantee that it will not happen five, ten or fifteen years later unless the terrorist organisations which are its root cause are not completely eliminated. This requires nation states to cooperate on a long term basis and ensure that terrorists do not find encouragement and safe havens across borders.
One must reflect on how strong China’s long term anti-terror commitment is considering that it recently blocked India’s bid to get the Pathankot terror attack mastermind Masood Azhar declared a terrorist. Earlier too China had blocked India’s demand for taking action under the Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolutions against Pakistan for freeing Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi – the LeT mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack. 4
China’s approach of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds appears counterproductive to its own national interests. The highly condemnable terror attack on its embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic is a good opportunity for China to review its stand on treating some terrorists as bad and others as good — there are no good or bad terrorists – there are just terrorists.
- 3 Wounded in Car Explosion near Chinese Embassy in Kyrgyzstan – Global Times / Xinhua, 30 Aug 2016
- Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) at GlobalSecurity.org
- The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) at Council of Foreign Relations
- China blocks India’s bid to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar, says he’s not a terrorist – India Today, 02 April 2016