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Threat of Returning Uyghur Fighters Spurred New China-Syria Cooperation

© Twitter / JigmeUgenMuslim Uyghurs deported by Thailand to China will prob face harsh persecution
Muslim Uyghurs deported by Thailand to China will prob face harsh persecution - Sputnik International
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The possibility of thousands of Uyghurs returning to mainland China after fighting in the Syrian civil war likely prompted the recent announcement of closer Chinese-Syrian military ties, US State Senator from Virginia Richard Black told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik), Leandra Bernstein — On Tuesday, China’s news agency Xinhua reported on a meeting between a Chinese and Syrian military delegations in Beijing, where the two nations’ representatives "reached consensus" on improving military personnel training. China also offered additional humanitarian aid to Syria.

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"The concern, I think, is that if al-Qaeda overwhelms Syria, that there will be a tremendous backlash that will make its way to mainland China itself," Black said on Wednesday.

The potentially increased role for China in the five-year Syria conflict comes amid US intelligence reports of approximately 5,000 Muslim Uyghurs from the Xinjiang region of China joining the al-Nusra Front terrorist group in Syria.

"They have a brigade-sized force there," Black said of the Uyghur foreign fighters in Syria.

China is concerned that neighboring countries, such as Turkey, could direct returning foreign fighters back to China.

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Citing the 2014 Uyghur-directed mass-stabbing in Xinjiang and the 2015 attack on a coal mine in Yunnan, Black noted that "instead of carrying out terrorist acts with knives murdering 50 people, they will come back and have advanced weapons… and they will start a revolution in Xinjiang province."

China has maintained a relatively low-profile involvement in the military aspect of the Syrian civil war, but has been instrumental in pressing for a political resolution to the conflict as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

At the beginning of the year, China also pledged $30 billion in post-war reconstruction funding for war-torn Syria.

Richard Black is the elected representative for Loudoun County, Virginia, and personally met with Syrian President Bashar Assad during an April visit to the country.

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