Air forces join Xinjiang counter-terror drills

Global Times
Dong Zhaohui

Air and land forces staged joint counter-terrorism drills on Monday around the Tianshan Mountains in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Directed by the Xinjiang Armed Police Corps and an unidentified army unit, eight helicopters and 10 civilian planes rapidly transported four groups involving thousands of armed troops. The groups conducted patrols in designated areas, including the prefectures of Kashgar, Hotan and Aksu, on Monday.

The three prefectures are located in southern Xinjiang, an area mainly populated byethnic Uyghur people, where terrorists have frequently attacked, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported on Tuesday.

The joint counter-terrorism operations are capable of rapidly deploying troops anywhere in the autonomous region, PLA Daily reported.

An unidentified official from the Xinjiang Armed Police Corps was quoted as saying that the exercises have achieved the goal of transferring a counter-terrorism force in Xinjiang.

Their Monday operation included tactical training in the region's mountains, highlands and desert areas, said the official.

"The joint drills were problem-solving-oriented and can effectively protect regional security and stability, since the air force, including helicopters, was not in place in previous counter-terrorism operations in Xinjiang," said Li Wei, an anti-terror expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

Li told the Global Times that "a full-scale and all-weather counter-terrorism force lives up to not only the global counter-terrorism combat trend but also to the specific requirements in Xinjiang, since the region features a complex landscape."

"Operations involving the armed police force and army is the trend and will become standard practice in the future," Li noted.

"The operations can substantially help different forces cope with the joint combat system,examine their combat readiness, and provide valuable information for decision-makers,"Wang Guoxiang, a Beijing-based counter-terrorism expert, told the Global Times.

However, given that the current equipment needs an upgrade, it is hard to achieve a real-time surgical strike across the region, Wang said, adding that "since the forces are equipped with medium-sized tactical transport helicopters, the operations will be more significant in real combat situations."

As part of efforts to maintain regional stability, the local government of Hotan prefecture is offering a reward of up to 5 million yuan ($726,744) to people who provide informationon terror activities, read a notice it issued on February 22.



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