Sunday, August 28, 2005

Al-Qaeda Targeting USA, Australia, UK And Asia

Al-Qaeda has listed the United States and Australia as prime targets for attacks this year along with Britain, South Korea’s spy agency has reported. South Korea, Japan and the Philippines are secondary targets, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) told Parliament this week, quoting a “senior” Al-Qaeda member arrested last month. “According to NIS, this terrorist testified that South Korea, Japan and the Philippines are secondary targets, while the United States, Britain and Australia are the prime targets for this year,” a lawmaker said. NIS did not reveal the name of the Al-Qaeda member, where he was arrested or what country handed over the information, according to the lawmaker sitting on the National Assembly’s intelligence committee, who requested anonymity. The comments come after the Financial Times quoted French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere as saying that an Asia-Pacific financial center such as Sydney, Tokyo or Singapore could be targeted by Al-Qaeda extremists. NIS told the committee that security officials were on alert for attacks in South Korea, which is hosting an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the southern port of Busan in November. South Korea, Japan and the Philippines have all contributed troops to the US-led war in Iraq. South Korea, which like Japan hosts US military bases, has 3,600 troops in Iraq, the third-largest contingent after the United States and Britain. Britain has already been targeted by extremists this year with 56 people dying in the July 7 bombing of three subway trains and a double-decker bus in London. Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard on Friday acknowledged his country was a possible terror target as he responded to the Financial Times report. “I have said for a long time this country can’t imagine that it’s free from the prospect of a terrorist attack,” he said. “We are, in my view, well prepared. But the important thing is not to have an effective response mechanism after the attack, the aim is to try and stop it occurring in the first place.” In the interview published on Friday, Bruguiere, France’s top terrorist investigator, said Asian financial centers could be targeted to undermine investor confidence. “We have elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted” by the Al-Qaeda network, he said. “Any attack on a financial market like Japan would mechanically have an important economic impact on the confidence of investors. Other countries in this region, such as Singapore and Australia, are also potential targets.” Asia-Pacific financial capitals reacted calmly to the report but officials said the region was prepared for the worst.