- Beijing - Olympic Games - terrorism
Chinese authorities on Saturday denied claims by a Uighur separatist group that it was behind deadly bus bombings in two cities, state media reported.
The group, which calls itself the Turkestan Islamic Party, claimed responsibility for a pair of bus blasts that killed two people Monday in southwest China, and said it would target the Beijing Olympics next month.
It made the comments in an online video statement transcribed by the Washington-based IntelCenter.
The separatist group also claimed responsibility for a bus explosion in Shanghai in May that killed three people, according to the centre, which monitors threats by extremists on the Internet.
But a public security official in Yunnan province, where Monday's blasts happened, said no evidence had been found linking the explosions with terrorism, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
"We have noticed media reports about the claims, but so far no evidence has been found to indicate the explosions were connected with terrorists and their attacks, or with the Beijing Olympics," Xinhua quoted the official as saying.
Police in Shanghai also denied the claims, Xinhua said.
"The (May 5) blast was indeed deliberate but had nothing to do with terrorist attacks," Cheng Jiulong, deputy head of Shanghai police, told Xinhua.
In the video statement claiming responsibility for the bombings, Commander Seyfullah of the Turkestan Islamic Party warned of more attacks to come.
"Through this blessed jihad (holy war) in Yunnan this time, the Turkestan Islamic Party warns China one more time," Seyfullah said in the video dated July 23, according to a transcript from the IntelCenter.
"Our aim is to target the most critical points related to the Olympics. We will try to attack Chinese central cities severely using the tactics that have never been employed," he continued.
The group also claimed responsibility for bombing a plastic factory in southern Guangdong province on July 17 -- a claim denied by provincial police who said "there were no terrorist attacks on July 17 in Guangdong," Xinhua reported.
The Turkestan Islamic Party is another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkestan (ETIM), a group seeking independence for Xinjiang, a Muslim-majority northwest region of China, according to global intelligence analysts Stratfor.
Police in Xinjiang said they had taken note of the group's claims.
"We will continue to keep a close watch over the social situation in Xinjiang and strive to ensure Olympic security," a public security bureau spokesman told Xinhua.
"We have dispatched hundreds of police officers who can speak Uighur ethnic language to major cities in other provinces this year to assist in ensuring local social stability," he said.
China has previously said Muslim separatists in Xinjiang were planning attacks on the Olympics, a claim backed up by some security experts.
"There are a number of terrorist groups seeking to attack China at this point in time, but the group with the intentions and capability to mount attacks in China is ETIM," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.
"It's impossible for a terrorist group to do a big attack in China because the Chinese have taken many security measures, but it's very likely there will be small and medium attacks in the lead-up, during and after the Olympics."
However, rights groups have accused the government of exaggerating or fabricating the threat as an excuse to silence dissent in the Xinjiang region, where many complain about decades of repressive Chinese rule.
Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, an exile group, on Saturday said Uighurs in Xinjiang did not engage in terrorism.
"China wants to prove there is terrorism in Xinjiang to continue to repress Uighurs in the region," he said.
China's foreign ministry and ministry for public security refused to comment on the group's claims when contacted by AFP.