Internet terror threats against S. Korea traced to an individual, not terror group
Stars and Stripes October 23, 2004
SEOUL — A series of Internet terror threats that put South Korean and U.S. officials on high security alert have been traced to an individual and not a known terrorist network, officials said this week.
The threats were posted on Web sites beginning Oct. 10 and signed by the “Martyr Hammoud Al-Masri Battalion” and “al Qaida’s network in South and East Asia.” A senior South Korean intelligence official told South Korean media the government believes there are no such groups.
The messages demanded South Korea remove its troops from Iraq by the end of a two-week period or Seoul would be “made to crumble.”
South Korean officials termed “relatively low” the likelihood the statements were authentic.
Late last month, U.S. and South Korean government and military agencies went to a higher state of alert after an alleged al-Qaida leader made threats to South Korea on an Oct. 1 audiotape. That tape was released the week after South Korea finished deploying some 3,000 troops to support U.S. forces in Iraq.
U.S. Forces Korea imposed a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on all servicemembers and civilians with status of forces agreement status from Sept. 24 through Oct. 8, citing in part worries about terror attacks on U.S. targets in South Korea.
On Oct. 8, that curfew was pushed back to midnight but officials reiterated warnings that Americans take extra safety precautions.
This week, after determining the newest threats probably were baseless, senior South Korean officials said they would pursue a course of safety without unduly scaring the public.
“We are not letting down our guard, and will make every effort to protect Koreans overseas,” Ban Ki-moon, minister of foreign affairs and trade, said at a news conference. “It could create anxieties among the public and negatively affect the country’s economy, and then we would be drawn in by their psychological warfare strategy.”
The government has tracked an increase in similar threats in recent weeks, he said.
“With the Ramadan period beginning, terror threats have become frequent for many countries including Korea. We are preparing for any kind of possible terror acts in the country, but we are trying to keep from scaring the public,” Moon said.