Confessions by killers of pro-Beijing imam in Xinjiang are broadcast

One killer's mentor, who is 18 years old, said the imam was misinterpreting the Koran, but lacks knowledge of the text himself

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 6:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 7:19pm

Xinjiang’s official television channel aired the confession of two suspects who assassinated a pro-Beijing imam at a major mosque in Kashgar in late July.

The video aired during the prime time news bulletin on Sunday showed Nurmemet Abidilimit, a 19-year-old Kashgar native blamed for the death of the imam, telling a reporter from Xinjiang Television he learnt from his “mentor” that the imam had misinterpreted the Koran and that killing him could help raise his own profile.

The imam, Jume Tahir, 74, was a former National People’s Congress delegate and former vice-president of the Islamic Association of China.

Abidilimit spoke in Uygur, saying he had not heard of a jihad until he joined an underground religious group in Hotan. He also confessed he jointly orchestrated the assassination with two other group members following the direction of their mentor, an 18-year-old Xinjiang native.

Xinjiang Television’s report suggested the mentor had only limited knowledge on the Koran.

“My elder brother told me not to join illegal religious groups, or I would get caught and bring trouble to our family,” the mentor said during the interview.

The interview was made public a day after the state television had aired footage of a ceremony in which a group of men pledged their lives to the jihad. The footage was reportedly found on the computers and mobile phones of attackers behind the deadly car crash in Tiananmen Square in Beijing last year.

The official media has been playing up a propaganda campaign against terrorism since Xinjiang party chief Zhang Chunxian vowed to use an iron fist to “educate” and “mobilise” the public in the wake of the death of the imam.

“We must use this [assassination] as a typical case [of terrorism] to expose the ugly nature of religious extremism and terrorism … to teach the public to keep their eyes open to the cruelty of the terrorists … and to build a general opinion against violence, terrorism and religious extremism,” Zhang told local officials during a briefing in late July about the assassination.

Jume Tahir, chief imam of Id Kah Mosque, was killed shortly after leading prayers at the 600-year-old mosque in Kashgar’s old town on July 30, Xinhua cited local police as saying. A tourist reportedly saw his body in a pool of blood outside the mosque that morning.

His death came on the heels of a mass confrontation between armed assailants and the local police in Yarkant county near Kashgar, which left nearly 100 people dead, including both assailants and civilians.

The police tracked down and found three suspects around noon on the same day. Two suspects were shot dead and the third was captured alive after the trio resisted with knives and hatchets, state media said.

The police captured the mentor, who had been hiding in Hotan, on August 1.