Why Did the Taliban Kill a Chinese Student in Peshawar?

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by yaqubjan on 3/12/2012 · 16 comments

On February 28, a 40-year old Chinese female was shot dead in Peshawar, Pakistan along with her male interpreter. According to various news sources, she was a “tourist,” which is surprising considering that the Chinese are famous for group tours and that even the boldest of female travelers is unlikely to engage in tourism in Pakistan’s most Talibanized city. Nonetheless, Pakistan’s Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations, Tahir Ayub, confirmed that she entered Pakistan on a tourist visa and that she was taking pictures in the bazaar when she was killed.  She was a student of Beijing University, so her bold travel plans may have been related to her studies.

The murder of this lady and her interpreter is unique because the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it was in retaliation for “atrocities” by Chinese security forces in Xinjiang. While this not the first time Chinese nationals have been murdered in Pakistan, this is the first time the Taliban has claimed responsibility for murdering a Chinese national.

This murder in Peshawar occurred within 24 hours after a group of around ten Uyghurs armed with knives and axes attacked a market in Yecheng County in Xinjiang, near Kashgar, killing as many as 20 people. The Chinese security forces responded by arresting more than 80 Uyghurs. There is no proof that the Taliban actually carried out the murder in Peshawar or that the murder was related to the events in Yecheng, but it is possible given the claim of responsibility and the timing.

Why might the Taliban have an interest in killing this woman and claiming credit for it, regardless of the possible relationship to the Yecheng incident? One possibility is that members of the Pakistani Taliban have been influenced by Uyghur militants from Xinjiang who are based in the tribal regions on Pakistan. A jihadi group claiming to be called the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) has released more than a dozen videos of Uyghurs in the tribal regions of Pakistan engaging in military training with other Central Asian militants. One video featured Chinese Uyghur Memtieli Tiliwaldi, who was later killed by Chinese security forces in Kashgar after he participated in attacks on Chinese civilians in Kashgar on July 30 and 31, 2011.

A set videos called “Tourism of the Believers” has featured a preacher speaking in Uyghur to approximately 30 listeners about jihad and other Islamic issues. It can be assumed that the videos were shot in Pakistan because of the mountainous terrain in the background and the listeners’ traditional Islamic clothing which is commonly worn by men in Pakistan. It can also be assumed that the listeners actually understand the preacher and are not just props for the video since they respond in unison to the speaker’s cues. These videos give good cause to believe that there are at least a few dozen Uyghur militants in Pakistan.

Although Xinjiang and China are not a top priority for the Taliban on par with the U.S. and NATO, some Taliban and Central Asian militants may have been influenced by their Uyghur brethren in Pakistan and taken up the TIP’s cause. This unfortunate lady may have been the victim of a revenge act by such members of the Taliban. Since the attackers have not been caught, they may even have been Uyghurs or Central Asians in Peshawar themselves.

Another motive for the Taliban in killing Chinese nationals in Pakistan is related to China’s developing infrastructure, such as roads, tunnels and bridges in Pakistan which facilitate trade and commerce between the two countries. The Taliban may feel threatened by China as a positive development actor in the country, which is helping to spur Pakistan’s economic development. It serves no benefit to the Taliban if people have more jobs and trade opportunities, especially with an “infidel” country like China. If anything, a better economic condition as a result of trade with China could deter people from joining the Taliban.

By killing Chinese nationals the Taliban may hope to deter Chinese nationals from working in Pakistan and therefore stunt Chinese influence in Pakistan and add friction to the China-Pakistan relationship. The Taliban may also be trying to provoke a response from China through an aggressive reaction or rhetoric to portray China as an enemy since the U.S. is soon leaving Afghanistan and terrorist groups always benefit from having new enemies to justify their existence.

China and Pakistan have been quick to affirm their mutual interest in finding the murderers and respecting each others’ sovereignty, but the overarching issue is whether this incident will become part a larger trend of attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan. Thousands of Chinese nationals are working to develop Pakistan’s infrastructure and their projects could get sidelined if the Taliban and other allied extremists succeed in carrying out more of these types of attacks.

 


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This post was written by...

– author of 2 posts on Registan.net.

Jacob Zenn holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Georgetown Law where he was a Global Law Scholar and a Certificate from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Nanjing Center for Chinese-American studies. He works as a legal advisor, international affairs analyst, and he has extensive experience in Central Asia, including completing a course of Russian language study in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 2007, Farsi/Tajiki language study in Samarkand, Uzbekistan in 2008, and Uyghur/Uzbek language study in Urumqi, Xinjiang Province, China in 2011. He has traveled in all seven "Stan" countries and has contributed to the Johns Hopkins SAIS Central Asia and Caucasus Analyst, the Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor, Militant Leadership Monitor and Terrorism Monitor, and the CTC Sentinel.

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{ 16 comments }

AlessandroRippa March 13, 2012 at 4:59 am

I see a couple of problems here. As far as I know the Chinese woman was killed before (not “within 24 hours after”) the Yecheng unrest. Plus, I personally met several Chinese women travelling alone in Pakistan and I wouldn’t be surprise if this was the case. Also, according to several sources Uyghur influence in militant groups is very limited, and I would be very surprise if they were able to influence the Taliban’s priorities in the region. And consider that the Taliban’s claim of responsibility for this murder has been described as “doubtful” by the Pakistani authorities (that was a few days ago, maybe you are aware of a more recent and different statement?).

yaqubjan March 13, 2012 at 11:27 am

Thanks for the note about timing. If these two events were coordinated then the fact that they occurred within 24 hours of each other is still consistent regardless which happened first… There are still very few single woman traveling in Pakistan, including Peshawar. I was there too last year and saw very few, especially in Peshawar, maybe there are more in the northern areas. She was with a guide which makes more sense. I haven’t seen that the claim was called “doubtful,” but it would not be surprising if some other militants were responsible who for whatever reason had some incentive to target China, perhaps inspired by Uyghur militants, perhaps to rattle China, or something else. Uyghur influence in militant groups is probably limited as there are not so many Uyghur militants in general, but China’s image as an oppressor is probably fairly prevalent among all Central Asian groups plus the Taliban.

AlessandroRippa March 13, 2012 at 11:45 am

Thanks, I guess you are correct. It’s quite hard to make a point here with so little info available.

Observerr March 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

I won’t ignore the possibility that American CIA did this. There are plenty good reasons why they want to do this.

Nathan Hamm March 13, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I won’t ignore the possibility that the invisible space unicorns hiding behind Jupiter did this. There are plenty of good reasons why they would want to do this.

TruthFinder March 15, 2012 at 4:26 pm

You forgot to mention that the same “space unicorn” was behind the shutdown of all the Peace Corp CIA-related activities since November last year. I guess there were also plenty good reasons why they did that. LOL!

Nathan Hamm March 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Invisible space unicorns are to blame for everything!

Lalala March 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm

40 year old Chinese women student? hmmm. I have lived in China for so long and never heard of it. A Chinese student traveling in Pakistan, never heard of it either. Chinese people do not travel till they graduate.

sander March 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm

To me an attach by a group of men with knifes and axes doesn’t quite sound like Al-Queda. Lets face it, a lot of the Uygher resentment has got more to do with culture, wealth and opportunities, and very little to do with global Jihad.

But then again, if you’re a Muslim, and got beef with your government, Al Queda is always willing to train and fund you.

xinjiangreview March 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm

First of all, many of my friends such as professors from Peking University actually travel in Pakistan and there is no surpsie that a student was travelling there.

secondly, the “Taliban” spokesman seemed unfamilar with the violence itself and someone already expressed problems in the socalled statement.

thirdly, it is too early and too far to claim that it is related to the Yechng incident as far as the timing is concerned….

fourthly, it seems to neglect the composition and backgroud of the so-called “Taliban” forces in Pakistan in terms of their relation to other regional powers…

Arkan al-Ifranji March 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

“a better economic condition (…) could deter people from joining the Taliban.”

Why do you assume that people join the Islamic liberation fighters because of economic or financial reasons?

jz adams March 16, 2012 at 6:54 pm

In response:
– I have still never heard of a woman of 40 years old traveling alone in Peshawar. Perhaps someone could find a Chinese travel blog of a woman doing this in Peshawar within the last two years and prove me wrong. Most professors at Peking Univ that deal with Pakistan are men I believe, too. Maybe she worked at one of these massage things and was targeted and that is why she was there… is there more info about her now?
– The Taliban claimed it. Maybe they didn’t do it. Maybe other militants did or it was a random crime. The fact that they claimed it is fairly significant though because it shows some militant elements are viewing China as an enemy enough to claim killings of Chinese.
– Okay, it is probably not related to Yecheng unless Yecheng was premeditated and they communicated beforehand. Unlikely. However, JaK in Kazakhstan did have pretty much live communications with cells in Kazakhstan last year so I suppose you never know.
– Like in Borno, Nigeria when the state does not provide roads, schools, etc to one area but does to other areas people rebel. I would one reason why people in tribal areas of Pakistan rebel against the state is because of neglect. China building roads could lead to development and lessen the perception of neglect by the corrupt govt.

xinjiangreview March 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm

thanks, Dear Yacub, for you quick response.

The killing of the Chinese woman and the following “Taliban” statement indeed sparks many speculations on “Taliban,” “TIP,” and the relationship between China and Pak “Taliban”.

However, we cannot assume her student status or she engages in massage-related activities. …

Actually, I communicated with my Pak friends in Pakistans who got to know the lady during a cultural festival and had spent sometime in Pakistan to celebrate various cultural festivals.

They made many videos about the lady and they testify that the lady traveled alot countries and places (not only in Pakistan but also Euro-America). She even plans to visit India after Pakistan.

Here is a short video made by my friends in Pakstian in which she and my Pak friends were celebrating Chinese culural festival there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViBsj2DEiFc

Hope this helps.

jz adams March 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Yes, I will take it that it is her… And I am sorry for her loss.
Regarding the piece, I still think it is accurate to say that it is surprising that she traveled alone to Peshawar. This attack is one reason why woman (or men) generally don’t travel alone there. I didn’t.

jz adams March 16, 2012 at 10:59 pm

The article says the travel may have been related to her studies… which would explain her traveling alone. It seems she was studying the culture, etc. So what answers the question in the title of the article? Or was it just a non-Taliban miscreant?

SAM April 1, 2012 at 5:54 am

WELL ITS NOT EASY TO ANSWER THEE QUESTION BECO SO FAAR WE DNT KNW..BUT ONE THNG I KNW THT THE INTERPRETR WAS MY GOOD FRIEND FROM MANY YEARS HE US TO LIVE WED US IN UK..THN IN ITLY WE USE TO LIVE N ONE HOUSE HE WAS ONE IN A MILION PEOPLE SO DIFRENT SOOO BRAVE AND INTELEGENT BOY HE WAS BORB IN AGHANISTAN AND BECO OF THE WAR HIS FAMILY MOVED TO PAKISTAN…HE WAS SEEKD ASYLUM IN UK..THY REFUSED HIM THN HE CAME TO ITLY FOR ASYLUM AND THN UK HOMEOFICE CONTECT ITALIAN POLICE TO SNE DIT BACK TO UK..AND THEN HE GONE TO AFGHANSITAN AND THN TO HIS FAMILY PAKSITAN AFTER SOME TIME HE GOT ADMISION IN UNIVERSITY IN LAHORE AND HE WAS STILL STUDYING THERE THAT IT HAPNED ….BUT HE WAS INOCENT HE IS MARTYR……FOR HIS MORE MORE INFO..GO TO FB…Sule Man…ITS ALL INFO ABOUT HIM……..

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