Sunday, August 28, 2005

Al Qaeda aims at Asia

After news in the Financial Times last week quoting French intellgience sources that al Qaeda was plotting to attack a major "Asian" city (such as Sydney, Singapore, or Tokyo) in order to disrupt financial markets, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) told the Korean National Assembly that al Qaeda has listed the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia as prime targets for attacks this year.

According to the NIS, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines are "secondary targets" in the region. This intelligence was gathered by a "senior" al Qaeda member arrested last month. The arrestee's name was not revealed, nor was the country where he was captured or being held.

With South Korea hosting an APEC summit in Pusan this November, there are concerns that Pusan or another South Korean city could be a major target, just as London was while the G-8 met in Scotland this past July.

South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines have all contributed troops to the US-led war in Iraq, but I think there are things that would tie them in as well, regardless of the troop contribution. All are non-Muslim, all are capitalist, all are political allies of the United States, and all have a history of institutional discrimination when dealing with Muslims or people from predominantly Muslim countries. Add to that that South Korea and the Philippines are considered "Christian" countries (and Japan is arguably Christian-friendly).

But none of these facts make the three U.S. allies the only targets. Indonesia, after all, is the largest Muslim country in the world and yet al Qaeda instigated the Bali bombings there. It seems al Qaeda loathes secular Muslim countries even more than non-Muslim countries.

South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines have been in al Qaeda's sights long before 9/11 or the Iraq War. An al-Qaeda bomb on a Philippines plane to Japan in the 1990s killed one passenger when the group was testing to see how well they could launch a 9/11-style attack from Asia to North America's West Coast.

And I distinctly remember the news on the Saturday before 9/11, in which U.S. intelligence issued a warning of an impending attack on either Korea or Japan.

If an attack occurs in Asia, my greatest hope is that it will not lead to calls for the ROK to remove its Zaytun troops. As I have said in other forums, that would be like putting a bull's eye on every South Korean citizen around the world. President Roh was right to not remove the Zaytun troops in the wake of the Kim Sung-il beheading, and he would be even more right for not doing so in the wake of an attack on Korea or Korea's friends in the Philippines, Japan, or any other Asian nation.

My other hope is that this news will put people on alert for the tell-tale signs of pending terrorist activities. Alert airline passengers have thwarted al Qaeda attacks in the past, and the same could be true for Korea's public transportation system.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.