AFP - The exiled leader of China's Uighur minority on Tuesday firmly distanced herself from Al-Qaeda, condemning the group's threats to attack Chinese interests in retaliation for the Muslims' deaths.
Rebiya Kadeer, the Washington-based head of the World Uighur Congress, said she opposed the use of violence in her campaign to bring greater rights for the ethnic group in China's northwestern Xinjiang province.
"I do not believe violence is a solution to any problem," Kadeer said in a statement.
"Global terrorists should not take advantage of the Uighur people’s legitimate aspirations and the current tragedy in East Turkestan to commit acts of terrorism targeting Chinese diplomatic missions or civilians," she said.
Algerian-based offshoot Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has threatened to target Chinese interests, according to international consultancy Stirling Assynt.
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese work in the Middle East and North Africa, including 50,000 in Algeria, estimated the group, which has offices in London and Hong Kong providing risk advice to corporate and official clients.
It marks the first time Osama bin Laden's network has set its sights on the Asian power, which has sought warm relations with the Islamic world.
China has accused Kadeer or masterminding recent violence in Xinjiang and said she is backed by "terrorists."
Kadeer denies the charges and US lawmakers have introduced a resolution demanding that China stop its "slander" of the 62-year-old former businesswoman and mother of 11, who spent six years in a Chinese prison.
Chinese authorities have said that riots in the Xinjiang city of Urumqi by Uighurs on July 5 left 184 people dead -- most of whom were Han, China's dominant ethnic group -- and more than 1,600 injured.
Uighur leaders accuse Chinese forces of opening fire on peaceful protests and say that Uighurs have been killed in subsequent mob attacks.
Uighurs generally practice a moderate brand of Islam influenced by Sufi mysticism and earlier shamanistic traditions.