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China eyes anti-terror force to protect overseas interests

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China eyes anti-terror force to protect overseas interests

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China is working to develop a first-class, crack anti-terror force that can operate at home and abroad and protect the country's overseas interests, a senior Chinese officer said in comments carried by state media on Saturday.

In late 2015, China passed a new anti-terrorism law that allows the military to venture overseas on counter-terror operations, though experts have said Beijing faces big practical and diplomatic problems to actually execute such an action.

China says it faces a threat not only from home-grown Islamists in its far western region of Xinjiang, but also from militants in the Middle East, some of whom it says are from Xinjiang.

In November 2015, Islamic State said it had killed a Chinese citizen it had taken hostage in the Middle East.

In an interview with the official Xinhua news agency, Zhang Xiaoqi, intelligence chief at China's paramilitary People's Armed Police which is part of the Chinese military, said developing special forces was an important component of the country's overall military modernisation.

"The mission scope of the special forces stretches from land to sea, from home to abroad," Zhang said.

He said that "anti-terror fight preparations" must be ready to safeguard national strategic interests anywhere.

"We must work hard to build an internationally first-rate counter-terror crack force," Zhang added, without giving details.

China, which has consistently said that it does not interfere in the affairs of other countries, is the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council which has not taken military action in Syria.

The government is yet to specify how any overseas military, counter-terror operation would work.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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