Jim O'Neill
The "Chinese Martyrs' Brigade" and Malaysian Flight 370
By Jim O'Neill
March 24, 2014

I have no theory to flog concerning the whereabouts of flight 370, but after having done some research I do lean toward the theory that the "Chinese Martyrs' Brigade" (CMB), or some other radical Uyghur separatist group, played a part in the disappearance of flight 370.

The Malaysian authorities were quick to dismiss an email purportedly sent by CMB claiming responsibility for the hijacking of flight 370. When it comes to acts of terrorism I do not know what the authorities consider to be a credible method of claiming responsibility, but apparently an email is not it.

According to a report filed by Shena Shankar, the CMB's statement "came through an encrypted Hushmail anonymous service that is reportedly almost impossible to be traced, on March 9,' and read in part: 'You kill one of our clan, we will kill 100 of you as pay back.'" Charlotte Wareing of UK's "Mirror News" writes that "Chinese authorities have portrayed Uighurs as having links with al-Qaeda."

Malaysian authorities were, to my mind, prematurely swift in dismissing the CMB statements. An article posted on Malaysia MSN ("Authorities brush off claims...") noted that various Malaysian authorities (names given) quickly discounted the CMB claims, as did the Chinese media and various Malaysian news organizations; who, according to Shankar, "expressed concerns that it might be a hoax aimed at sparking further ethnic tensions in China following a series of attacks by separatists in China's restive Uyghur Autonomous Region" (UAR). I will discuss the UAR shortly. (Note: "Uyghur" is also spelled "Uighur," and "we-gore" is a passable, if not precise, way to pronounce it).

But first a few words about claiming responsibility for terrorist acts. Contrary to popular belief, there is no stampede to claim credit for acts of terrorism – quite the opposite in fact.

In his article "Do Terrorists Usually Claim Responsibility for Their Attacks?" Brian Palmer reports that the vast majority of terrorist acts go unclaimed: "Credible perpetrators claimed responsibility for only 14 percent of the more than 45,000 terrorist acts that have occurred since 1998, according to the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database."

So there are plausible reasons to be dubious about the veracity of CMB's claims – nevertheless, I remain skeptical about how quickly and thoroughly the authorities and media slammed the door on the possibility of CMB's claims being legitimate.

The unstinting efforts by the Malaysian authorities have included an orchestrated media event at Kuala Lumpur's international airport, in which Muslim "witch-doctor" Ibrahim Mat Zin and several helpers banged coconuts and plunked themselves down on the airport's floor and proceeded to "row" a "boat" on the "water," and search for flight 370 with the aid of lensless bamboo "binoculars."

While I admire the Malaysian government's desire to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to locate flight 370, my confidence in their methodology is less than unwavering – and their justifications for refusing to take CMB's claims of responsibility seriously leave me less than convinced.

In any event, if you research China's UAR you will find that it is a powder keg of civil unrest located in far west China – as far west as you can go and still be in Chinese territory.

The region is officially designated the "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region," but that mouthful is commonly shortened to simply "Xinjiang" (say "scheen-jung," with a hard "J," for a passable pronunciation). Xinjiang is bordered by the Islamic countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

According to Wikipedia's entry on the UAR "only about 4.3% of Xinjiang's land area is fit for human habitation." For such a sparsely settled area it has contributed to an inordinate amount of violence and unrest:
A "Time" article on the terrorist attack in the Xinjiang city of Kunming earlier this month ("Deadly Terrorist Attack in Southwestern China Blamed on Separatist Muslim Uighurs") notes that:
    While the Tibetan campaign for autonomy gets more international attention, Muslim Uighurs have also agitated against what they say are decades of institutionalized repression, such as limits on worship and career opportunities.

    That resistance movement may be radicalizing.
It might be worth noting that the attacks in Kunming, China occurred just over a week before the disappearance of China-bound flight 370, and that the Kunming attacks were especially bloody and vicious (over 170 victims were slashed, cut, and stabbed – at least 29 of them fatally). Like myself and others, Muslim secularist Tarek Fatah is nonplussed that Malaysian authorities do not take CMB's claims more seriously.

Why were the Malaysian authorities so quick to dismiss the claims of the CMB, when the Uyghur population is largely Muslim with overtly violent factions; Xinjiang borders on numerous Muslim countries, and radical Muslims have a rather long and varied history of hijacking passenger planes?

I am not saying that the CMB or some other Uyghurian separatist movement is definitely responsible for the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370, nor do I mean to imply that Uyghurian separatists as a whole were involved.

I am saying that I consider it unwise to so quickly, firmly, and rather cavalierly, dismiss the possibility that radical Uyghurian elements were involved in the disappearance of Malaysian flight 370. I believe that it is worth trying to connect the dots and seeing what sort of picture emerges – nothing more, nothing less.

© Jim O'Neill


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Jim O'Neill

Born June 4, 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Served in the U.S. Navy from 1970-1974 in both UDT-21 (Underwater Demolition Team) and SEAL Team Two. Worked as a commercial diver in the waters off of Scotland, India, and the United States. While attending the University of South Florida as a journalism student in 1998 was presented with the "Carol Burnett/University of Hawaii AEJMC Research in Journalism Ethics Award," 1st place undergraduate division. (The annual contest was set up by Carol Burnett with money she won from successfully suing a national newspaper for libel). Awarded US Army, US Navy, South African, and Russian jump wings. Graduate of NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School, 1970). Member of Mensa, China Post #1, and lifetime member of the UDT/SEAL Association.


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