Yemen Attack Signals Time to Overhaul Anti-Terrorism Policies

      March 19, 2009 10:56

      A convoy of vehicles carrying Korean diplomats and family members of the victims of Sunday's terror bombing in Yemen were attacked on Wednesday by what appears to be a suicide bomber. It is a great relief to know that no one in the convoy was injured. But the latest attack, which specifically targeted Koreans, is a reminder of just how urgently we need to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the suicide bombing and devise policies to deal with the situation.

      From Sunday, when the first bombing occurred, until Tuesday, Korean Foreign Ministry officials claimed that it was difficult to ascertain whether the attack specifically targeted Koreans or whether Koreans just happened to be in the way of terrorists pursuing other foreigners. But it is a cause for grave concern considering that a second terror bombing occurred after the presence in Yemen of Korean diplomats and victims' family members had been widely publicized through news reports.

      In January, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, warned of attacks against non-Muslim tourists, saying such people were legitimate targets, since they are the spies of Western crusaders. We need to find out whether the attacks were indeed carried out by AQAP or were related to their warning and whether their target was the broader "pagan" tourists of various nationalities who enter Yemen or Koreans in particular.

      If al-Qaeda members are found to have targeted and attacked Koreans, then our government's anti-terrorism tactics and measures to protect our citizens traveling abroad must be strengthened. We must also develop closer ties with our allies to ensure their close cooperation while thoroughly gauging international political developments and bolster our intelligence capabilities in order to prevent our citizens from becoming the victims of terrorism. However, our government should not allow terrorism to force us to change policies, which are decided according to international obligations and national interests.

      We need to find more effective means of publicizing dangerous spots around the world and to engage in preventive measures so that our citizens do not travel to those locations. The Foreign Ministry designates countries under four levels (attention required, controlled travel, limited travel and prohibited travel). Yemen had been designated a limited-travel destination, which is the second most dangerous designation. The country had been classified as a region to avoid for Koreans, while those already in Yemen were being told to leave unless they had very pressing concerns there. But this time, neither the government, the tourists themselves, nor the travel agency involved exercised caution.
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