Thousands of Muslim Chinese 'fighting with militants in Syria'
Authorities in China are concerned that thousands of their nationals are involved in the Syrian civil war, posing a potential national security threat to their country, Israeli daily Ynet reported, citing the foreign ministry report.
According to the report, which contains information from the Israeli spy service Mossad, some 3,000 Uyghurs of the Chinese minority group, are also fighting in the ranks of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the al-Qaeda branch in Syria - formerly known as the al-Nursa Front.
The report also states that several hundred militants are fighting with IS.
China is said to be looking to Russia, Iran and Bashar al-Assad's regime to assist in the disposition of the militants.
"China is interested in as much data that can be collected on them, and it is our understanding that they would prefer to liquidate them on Syrian soil, in order to prevent their return to their region."
Earlier this month, an exiled advocate for China's ethnic Uighur minority said that some from the community were fighting and dying in Syria, warning that they had been duped into doing so.
Rebiya Kadeer, who heads the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said that among the thousands of Uighurs who have fled to Southeast Asia, Turkey and elsewhere in recent years, a small number have ended up in the war-torn Middle Eastern country and have joined militant groups.
"Some Uighurs... died after Russian airplanes bombed them, they were killed in Syria," she said at a press conference in Japan last week.
The mostly Muslim Uighurs, who speak a Turkic language and number some 10 million, are native to the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang bordering Central Asia and have long complained of religious and cultural discrimination.
China has frequently warned that radical forces from outside have inspired terror attacks in Xinjiang as well as in other regions of the country and has launched a harsh crackdown.
It says among Uighurs who have fled are some seeking to train with extremists in Syria to eventually return and fight for independence in Xinjiang.
In 2015, China's security ministry said more than 100 Uighurs that were repatriated by Thailand had been on their way to Turkey, Syria or Iraq.
Kadeer said Uighurs who end up in Syria are vulnerable and prone to being "brainwashed" into joining the fighting there, but still denounced them.
"We think they are just like criminal groups in our society," she said.