China issued a plea for understanding from the Muslim world yesterday and vowed to 'take all necessary measures' to protect its overseas workforce after al-Qaeda threatened to avenge the deaths of Uygurs in Xinjiang . The Foreign Ministry was responding to yesterday's South China Morning Post report that al-Qaeda's Algerian-based offshoot had demanded attacks on Chinese workers and projects across North Africa. 'We will keep a close eye on developments and make joint efforts with relevant countries to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of overseas Chinese institutions and people,' spokesman Qin Gang said. '[The] Chinese government opposes terrorism in any form and we'd like to increase our co-operation with related countries to fight terrorism, offering safety [to Chinese people].' Repeatedly urging understanding of its actions and policies towards Uygurs in Xinjiang, Mr Qin said China believed that through mutual efforts, relations between Beijing and Muslim countries 'will move forward' based on the principles of peaceful co-existence. He said he hoped people would understand 'the truth of the July 5th incident', referring to the outbreak of ethnic violence in Urumqi , capital of the autonomous region, that claimed more than 180 lives. 'Through understanding the truth of the event, I think people will understand and support China's ethnic and religious policies and measures we have adopted to stop the violence,' Mr Qin said. 'China and Muslim countries have a long-standing tradition of understanding and respecting each other ... the foundation of our relationship was built on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit.' Asked whether China would send government or private security forces to protect the hundreds of thousands of Chinese engineers and labourers across Africa, Mr Qin said: 'I think I have answered your question. China will take all necessary measures to protect its people overseas.' He added that the ethnic violence - the worst such bloodshed on the mainland in decades - was organised by 'three forces' inside and outside the country, Beijing's phrase to link separatists, extremists and terrorists. The Post reported that London-based risk analysis firm Stirling Assynt is telling clients that al-Qaeda's Algerian-based offshoot, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has issued the call for vengeance. Their report is based on information from people who have seen the instruction. It is the first time Osama bin Laden's terrorist network has directly threatened China or its interests. A range of diplomats said they believed China's swift response suggested Beijing may have its own solid intelligence on the al-Qaeda threats. 'This may have served to add further confirmation to a picture they had built themselves,' one veteran Asian envoy said. 'It is a remarkable response.' The Stirling report warns that a response to the call from senior al-Qaeda leaders could come within two weeks, based on the group's usual slow-moving decision making. Stirling's analysts, along with both Asian and Western diplomats and other terrorism experts, believe that while the al-Qaeda leadership may sanction attacks on Chinese interests in North Africa, it is unlikely it would seek to open a new front by attacking China itself.