Uighur terrorists jailed for DragonMart bomb plot

Blast at Dubai's Chinese mall 'would have caused damage 80 metres away', court told, as two plotters receive 10 years each.

DUBAI - JANUARY 10,2010 - Dragon Mart at Hatta- Oman road in Dubai. ( Paulo Vecina/The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PV Dragon Mart 5.JPG
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ABU DHABI // Two Uighurs who plotted a bomb attack at DragonMart in Dubai last summer were jailed for 10 years each yesterday, to be followed by deportation. Mayma Ytiming Shalmo, 35, and Wimiyar Ging Kimili, 31, were convicted of planning an attack on the shopping mall and being members of a terrorist organisation, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The verdict was issued by the State Security Court, and therefore cannot be appealed against.

The two men entered the country to target Chinese interests after unrest and riots involving Uighurs and police in the Chinese province of Xinjiang, the court heard. They were arrested while obtaining materials from pharmacies to create explosives. The men intended to blow up a statue outside the trading centre. The court heard that the defendants wanted the attack to be symbolic, and was it intended to be directed against the Chinese government. They did not intend to cause any casualties, but the attack would have damaged the "national security, prestige and reputation" of the UAE.

Experts told the court that the explosives the men intended to use would have caused massive damage, with the effects felt up to 80 metres from the blast point. Dubai Police were tipped off about the two defendants by the Chinese Embassy, which had been watching them closely because of their ethnic and religious background since they arrived in the UAE on July 16 last year. The embassy sent a representative to all the hearings, and arranged translators.

Two were required for the hearings, one to translate Uighur to Mandarin and another from Mandarin to Arabic. Court documents released in January said the men first drew the attention of authorities when they made a wire transfer of Dh50,000 to China, and then moved the cash to Saudi Arabia. The money was to be used to fund the attack, the documents say, although it was not made clear what the suspects planned to purchase. Prosecutors said the men travelled several times to Saudi Arabia from the UAE while planning the attack. The men said they were travelling for religious reasons. Under UAE law, anyone convicted of terrorism-related offences is sentenced to death. The sentence can, however, be reduced. The sentence on the Uighurs was limited to 10 years because they were in the "preliminary stages" of planning an attack. Ethnic Uighurs are a Turkic group who live mainly in a semi-autonomous region of Xinjiang province in China. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement campaigns for the creation of a separate homeland for that area's largely Muslim population. The group is described by the United Nations as a terrorist organisation. DragonMart is the world's largest trading centre for Chinese goods outside mainland China, according to its website. The centre opened in December 2004 and houses nearly 4,000 shops. hhassan@thenational.ae