In a video released in recent days, ISIS militants from China's Uighur ethnic minority threatened to return home to "shed blood like rivers," according to analysis by U.S.-based jihadist-tracking firm SITE Intelligence Group, which examined the footage.
The video was released on the day Chinese police cracked down on the autonomous region of Xinjiang in Northwest China which is populated by the Turkish-Moslem Uighur minority. Police wished to neutralize centers of crime and violence but ISIS fighters saw the police operation as a direct assault on Islam.
In the video made moments before the execution of an alleged informant, an Uighur militant reportedly issued ISIS's first direct threat against China. According to SITE's translation, the fighter said, "We will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed."
Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University, claimed that the video showed China is now "very firmly a target of jihadist rhetoric." "It is the first time that Uighur-speaking militants have claimed allegiance to ISIS," he said.
China has long attributed violent attacks in the provincial-level autonomous region of Xinjiang to exiled Uighur "separatists" and warned of their possible collaboration with overseas jihadist groups.
Many ethnic minority Uighurs, who are traditionally Muslim, have reported suffering cultural and religious persecution from China. They are not allowed to exhibit external Muslim characteristics like beards and veils and are forbidden even to fast in the Ramadan, as these are deemed radical Islamic customs which could spark unrest. Tensions between the government and local elements have led recently to stabbing attacks and in response to sharper measures by police including raids and establishment of checkpoints.