S. Korean intelligence intercepts Al Qaida infiltrator

Special to World
Thursday, November 27, 2003

South Korea's intelligence agency has warned of terrorist attacks on U.S. military bases and industrial centers in the country.

"An Al Qaida member recently flew into South Korea on a flight from Manila to test the security conditions of Southeast Asian airplanes as part of efforts to prepare for suicide attacks using aircraft," said a classified intelligence document acquired by

"The Al Qaida network's infiltration was also aimed at collecting information about major U.S. facilities in South Korea, the potential targets for terrorist attacks," the document said. The Al Qaida member was later arrested in Pakistan and is now in U.S. custody, it said.

The document also said intelligence agencies have received tips of possible attacks in the country from U.S. intelligence. "U.S. military bases and U.S.-related facilities in this country, and South Korea's major industrial facilities and large buildings can be main targets of terrorist attacks," the report stated.

The National Intelligence Service, South Korea's main spy agency, confirmed the Al Qaida infiltration, but said he was apprehended upon arriving at a Seoul airport.

The warning came after an Al Qaida threat of retaliation against Japan and other U.S. allies that plan to deploy troops to join the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaida network did not name South Korea as possible a target, but intelligence officials and security analysts warn that terrorists can reach the heart of Seoul, which is preparing to send thousands of troops to help the U.S.-led operation in Iraq.

The terror threats are becoming real. South Korean diplomats in Kabul were evacuated to Pakistan last week following an Al Qaida suicide bomb threat against the South Korean embassy in Afghanistan.

Late last month, South Korean police investigated a Greek-owned ship that was suspected of carrying Al Qaida members trying to enter the country. They found nothing unusual on the ship.

The terrorist threats have forced South Korea to seek anti-terrorism legal strategy. After two years of debate, the parliamentary intelligence panel endorsed the country's first counter-terrorism bill in mid-November. But its fate remains uncertain, as many human rights activists are opposed to any anti-terror law.

South Korea is a key U.S. ally and is home to 37,000 U.S. troops at about 100 installations across the country. They are stationed to help defend against a potential conflict with North Korea under a bilateral defense treaty signed after the Korean War.

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