Syria

Chinese Muslims Among Syrian Rebels

Extremist groups like Al Qaeda are among the ranks of Assad's opposition

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BEIJING—Chinese Muslim separatists from the northwest region of Xinjiang are battling Syrian government forces alongside Al Qaeda and other extremist groups, an official Chinese newspaper reported Monday.

Radicals among China's ethnic Turkic Uighur minority have been traveling to Syria since May to join the fighting in trips organized by groups opposed to Beijing's rule over Xinjiang, the Global Times reported Monday.

Citing unidentified Chinese anti-terrorism authorities, it said the groups were funding their activities through drug and gun trafficking, kidnapping and robbery, and providing training for "separatists, criminals and terrorists" who had fled Xinjiang.

"After receiving orders from Al Qaeda, terrorists from China came to Syria to meet with jihadists already on the ground before forming groups on the front lines," the report quoted an unidentified official as saying.

While foreign jihadists have joined in the 19-month-long Syria conflict that has killed more than 35,000 people, the presence of fighters from China has not been previously reported.