China is planning to send troops to Syria to aid President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, according to the New Khaleej.
According to informed sources, the move comes as China becomes increasingly concerned with the presence of Islamic militants in the East Turkestan region, who have been sighted aiding opposition groups in Syria.
Last week, during a meeting with Syrian Presidential Advisor Bouthaina Shaaban, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi praised the regime’s efforts at tackling the fighters from the Islamic East Turkistan Movement.
The Syrian regime has also claimed that some 5,000 fighters of Uyghur origin, an ethnic Muslim minority that Chinese authorities regularly accuse of terrorism, have arrived in Syria, illegally passing through Southeast Asia and Turkey.
The sources said that the Chinese Ministry of Defence intends to send two units known as the “Tigers of Siberia” and the “Night Tigers” from the Special Operations Forces to aid Syrian government troops.
This is not the first time Chinese troops have crossed into Syria; in 2015 the Syrian regime permitted some 5,000 soldiers to enter its territory as allied forces and stationed them in the Western region of Latakia. Chinese military advisors were also among the deployment, as well as naval and aerial assets.
China is one of the five veto-wielding powers of the UN Security Council and, along with Russia, has used its power on more than one occasion to protect the interests of the Syrian regime.
Russian support has given the government an upper hand in the six year-long civil war, especially as the battle against Daesh comes to an end.
More than half a million people are believed to have been killed since 2011, the vast majority by the Assad government and allied forces. The regime has also used chemical weapons against civilians and prevented aid from reaching those affected on the ground. UN officials further estimate that some ten million people have been displaced as a result of the fighting.