China's state broadcaster CCTV reported on Monday that the country's authorities arrested an Uighur man after he returned from Syria, accusing him of planning a bomb attack in China.
CCTV claimed the man, identified as "Aikebaier," stayed in a training camp in Syria and "confessed" in prison that he learned how to make a bomb to use in "a shopping center in the northern city of Shijiazhuang."
According to the report the man traveled to Syria in 2013 through Turkey and "had been caught."Further details were not forthcoming.
CCTV did not say when "Aikebaier" returned to China and how long he has been in prison, but AFP reported that he was shown on screen in a prison vest with a shaved head.
"I would like to say to my mother: please forgive me," he reportedly said during his "confession", before breaking into tears.
The exiled group World Uyghur Congress rejected the TV report as "propaganda." Spokeswoman Dilxat Raxit said coercion was the reason for the confession.
"For the sake of their family's safety, arrested Uighurs have no other choice than to become propaganda tools for the Chinese government," she told AFP in a statement.
The Xinjiang autonomous region is home to the indigenous Uighur Turkic Muslim minority which has historically called it “East Turkestan.”
Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past two years, where China's repressive policies - including controls on religion and Uighur culture - have intensified.
Beijing regularly lashes out at "militant groups" seeking independence for the region and frequently links Uighurs to violence in the Middle East without evidence. Many analysts say China uses the situation in the Middle East as an excuse to harden its policies against the Muslim minority.
Thousands of Uighurs have fled the country in recent years due to discrimination and repression. The latest incident comes only days after Thailand deported more than 100 Uighur Muslims to China who were shown on state television with hoods over their heads and accused of planning to join militant groups in Iraq and Syria.
They were among about 250 Uighurs being held in camps in Thailand for the last two years after fleeing China. There are 60 Uighurs remaining in detention camps according to Thai authorities - 52 men, four women and four children.