WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury on Monday sought to cut off the flow of money to the head of a group considered responsible for killing more than a dozen Chinese police officers ahead of last yearâ€™s Beijing Olympics.
â€œAbdul Haq commands a terror group that sought to sow violence and fracture international unity at the 2008 Olympic Games in China,â€ said Stuart Levey, Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.
The U.S. move will freeze any assets Haq has under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits American citizens from doing business with Haq.
Haq is overall leader and commander of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Party (ETIP), which was branded a terrorist organization in 2002, Treasury said.
â€œToday, we stand together with the world in condemning this brutal terrorist and isolating him from the international financial system,â€ Levey said in the prepared statement, calling his group â€œtied to al Qaeda.â€
A police station in Chinaâ€™s restive Xinjiang region was attacked four days before the Beijing Olympics began, killing 17 officers, according to Chinese state media reports.
Almost half of Xinjiangâ€™s 20 million people are Uighur, a largely Muslim group with a culture and language close to other Turkic parts of central Asia.
Many Uighurs resent controls imposed by Beijing and an inflow of Han Chinese migrants, and some Uighur groups are campaigning for an independent homeland for their Turkic-speaking people.
Some scholars of Xinjiang question the size, influence, and even the existence, of the Eastern Turkestan Islamic Party, saying Beijing grossly exaggerates the threat to justify harsh controls.
Earlier this month, China executed two minority Uighurs in Xinjiang after a court convicted them over the August attack, according to state media.
Critics say the Bush administrationâ€™s designation of Haqâ€™s group as a terrorist organization in 2002 was designed to appease China in the run-up to the United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq.
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(Reporting by Corbett B. Daly; Editing by Eric Walsh)