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Category: Korea in the War on Terror (page 1 of 9)

Egypt bombing: Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis tweets responsibility

Al-Qaeda-inspired nutjobs Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis are claiming responsibility for the bus bombing that killed four Koreans and one Egyptian and injured scores more at the Egyptian border crossing of Taba. From the Times of Israel:

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, according to various Arabic-language media outlets.

The group said on Twitter that it would continue to attack Egypt’s economy, tourism and its military commanders, Israel Radio reported.

Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem) have been very busy since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Since the fall of Mohammed Morsi, they’ve focused largely on attacking the Egyptian police and military.

It should be noted that the attack coincided with the start of the third Morsi trial. No link has been demonstrated, though, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice Party has condemned the attack.

The motives of the attack are yet unclear, but The Times of Israel speculates that the attack served two purposes:

“It is very hard for them to penetrate into Israel,” said Maj. (res.) Aviv Oreg, formerly the head of Al Qaeda and Global Jihad desk at the IDF’s military intelligence directorate. But for jihadist organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, this sort of attack is ”very sufficient in order to pinpoint that Israel is their target in their aspirations.”

More concretely, it targeted tourists on Egyptian soil. Last year, in the wake of president Mohammed Morsi’s ouster and the ongoing attacks in Sinai and the Egyptian mainland, tourist revenue in Egypt dropped by 41 percent. The $10 billion earned in 2012 dwindled to $5.9 billion in 2013, Reuters reported in January. This, the first attack against tourists since Morsi was pried from power, will further cut into the foreign cash flow. It will also push Egypt, and certainly the Sinai Peninsula, one more step in the direction of anarchy, the ecosystem in which terror thrives.

Egypt’s Al-Ahram points out that this was the first attack on tourists in Egypt since 2008, and that this could mark the beginning of a new phase in the militant campaign against the Egyptian government:

For Iman Ragab, a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Centre, the attack represents a “new phase” in Egypt’s ongoing battle against terrorism, which has spiked following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Until Sunday, however, all of the bomb attacks had targeted only security installations and personnel.

Rageb expressed her fear that Sunday’s attack might open the door for a wave of terrorism similar to the one that took place in the 1990s, when Egypt was rocked by recurrent militant attacks on tourist sites across the country, which severely crippled tourism and threatened security.

It’s still unclear how the bombing was carried out—some say it was a suicide bombing, others say a guy chucked a bomb into the bus, still others say it was a remote-controlled device. I’m sure we’ll get a clearer picture soon enough.

In addition to condemning the attack, the Korean government is advising Koreans travelling in five countries—Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia—to leave. Why those five countries, I don’t know.

The Koreans were mostly members of Jincheon Central Church in Jincheon, Chungcheongbuk-do, to whom we offer our deepest condolences. They were in Egypt as part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the church. It’s not an especially big church, but it is one of the larger ones in the Jincheon area, and it does conduct missionary work in Korea’s migrant worker community. To mark its 50th anniversary it also sent missionaries to “Northeast Asia”—I’ll let you speculate what that means. One of the dead was reportedly a missionary from Jincheon active in Egypt, but the church says he had nothing to do with them, and at any rate, nothing’s been confirmed.

The Korean Foreign Ministry had placed travel restrictions on the Sinai and Gulf of Aqaba due to the deteriorating security situation there since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, although the curate of the church says he was unaware of this. The ministry has now placed a total travel ban on the Sinai and Gulf of Aqaba.

A DPRK Cyber Weapon To Contend with – Point-of-sale Botnets

DPRK-cardConsidering the DPRKs threat to cause mayhem in South Korea, there is one way that could be used by them to attack the economy here and the latest tool is the point-of-sale cash register that are in so many businesses everywhere.

As of this week, Target – an American chain store – has had all of its 1,800 or so stores across the country “targeted” by a massive botnet that stole up to 40 million credit card numbers, PIN number and other details from in-store shoppers, over a 19-day period.  Apparently Target had suspected they were being hacked at least as far back as August and had blocked non-US traffic to their store website but they could not prevent the results.

Unlike other attempts to raid data servers in one location, infected POS machines can be turned into a gigantic botnet that collects credit information.  The economic harm from this one episode has attracted the attention of the Secret Service as well (link).

The sophistication of this newer type of botnet is notable:

. . . (the newer botnet software is) much more advanced. It allows attackers to corral large numbers of PoS devices into a single botnet. The interface makes it easy to monitor the activities of infected machines in real time and to issue granular commands. In short, they are to PoS terminals what ZeuS, Citadel, and other banking trojans are to online bank accounts. The code helping to streamline the process has been dubbed StarDust. It’s a major revision of Dexter, a previously discovered piece of malware targeting PoS devices that has already been fingered in other real-world payment card swindles. (link)

This means that after infecting a large number of POS registers, the network can operate in coordinated attacks and can be very difficult to shutdown.  Apparently the latest strains of this software (V2 Stardust & V3 Revolution) have ties to Russian criminal networks and is for sale too.

If this sort of attack is used to attack the many under-protected POS machines in South Korea – the source of so many botnets already – what would happen if a concerted effort by the DPRK hackers to take down the entire South Korean economy by coordinated botnet attacks on local business, banks, etc. were attempted?

I shudder at this point . . .

Tears For Fears: South Korean Tear Gas in Bahrain?

teargas_BahrainAs of this year, Bahrain interior ministry personnel have ordered 1.6 million teargas canisters to use against protesting Baharainians, who have been in the middle of an extended protest, if not revolution (see Bahraini uprising).  Oddly enough, Baharin turned to South Africa and South Korea for their supply of tear gas, which has been used not just to stop protesters but to cause harm as well.  So far 39 people have died due to misuse of teargas in the protests:

. . . Based on field evidence the organisation collected between 2011 and 2013, the top teargas exporters to Bahrain are DaeKwang Chemical Corporation and CNO Tech. Both companies have shipped “over 1.5 million pieces of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012,” which exceeds “the entire population of Bahrain, which is 1.2 million, of which 600,000 are citizens,” according to the group’s website. Financial Times cited a senior executive at DaeKwang as acknowledging the export of around one million units of tear gas to Bahrain between 2011 and 2012. (cite)

6.10__002This is odd considering the history of tear gas to suppress popular dissent in South Korea throughout the latter part of the Twentieth Century in South Korea (at right, Yonsei U., 1986, 6.10 민주항쟁), however, the money side of this situation is not bad for South Korea since “the monetary value of the planned shipment is unclear, however based on an estimate of $10 to $20 per canister, the total price could be between $16 and $32 million.”

Though the KFTU (Korean Federation of Trade Unions) does not enjoy my sympathy or respect, they seem to be enjoying a case of ethics regarding this issue:

. . .The Korean Federation of Trade Unions threw its support behind the Stop the Shipment campaign, sending a letter to the Korean Government asking them to halt all tear gas exports to Bahrain, meanwhile, in London, the UK-based NGO Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has called for a protest outside the Korean Embassy on Friday. (cite)

No Korean hostages in Algeria: Foreign Ministry

Although earlier Western reports had a Korean among the hostages in Algeria, the Foreign Ministry says there were no Korean nationals on the list of workers at the natural gas complex, and no Koreans or Korean companies active in the region where the kidnapping took place.

As you all know by now, it appears a rescue attempt by the Algerian military went very, very sideways.

Dangerous Korean Paintball Players Run Amok

The police in South Korea are clamping down on paintball teams in South Korea under the guise of security ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.  There is no word of or comment from the police about fight clubs however.

That’s a lot of Vipers…

Korean and American F-16s on the ground in Gunsan.

It’s been nearly 40 years since the F-16′s first flight, and it’s still a fine-looking aircraft.

Oh, and for still more gun porn, check out these shots of Korean police and military counter-terrorism teams engaging in drills at COEX, the venue of the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit.

UPDATE: More on the security preparations for the nuke security summit. The sniper rifle is apparently a Brit-made AW-50 anti-materiel rifle.

What was that? You want to chip in an F-15 or two?

Time to kick the tires and light the fires—the JoongAng Ilbo has given us the green light to wack the Syrians:

Now the international community must persuade and pressure Russia and China to change their actions. If they persist in having their way, the rest of the world must come up with ways to force Assad to step down without the cooperation of Russia and China.

For example, the global community can give positive consideration to the idea of providing weapons to the Syrian rebels. Furthermore, the United States, the EU and Middle Eastern nations should push ahead with air raids on Syrian troops to disrupt their ruthless attacks on civilians, just as the NATO-led alliance did in Libya. Dictators’ atrocities must be stopped. The international community must stand up to a massive anti-humanitarian crime once again.

It’s almost bombs-away at the Kyunghyang, too.

Of course, what I’m NOT hearing is offers to contribute a fighter wing or two to help. Seeing how the “international community” has this great responsibility and all…

South Korea sends more troops to the United Arab Emirates

According to The National, South Korea is sending 140 soldiers as part of its rotation (or add to – see Korea Herald) of South Korean troops already in the UAE.  The South Korean unit in UAE – known as ‘Akh’ (Brother) - will train their “UAE counterparts in counter-terrorist skills, such as anti-hijacking actions, and counter-insurgency operations.”

Seo Jeong Min, a professor of Middle East politics at Hankuk University in Seoul, said yesterday that opposition legislators in South Korea initially opposed to sending the troops have come to recognise the value of strengthening the countries’ strategic partnership.

“Korean companies have focused on economic co-operation [with the UAE] for a long time, but nowadays we’re trying to expand the areas of co-operation into various fields, like military or defence systems, energy and related developments,” he said.

“This kind of co-operation, the defence sector, is the weakest link we’ve had in our history so, through dispatching troops, we are trying to show our strong intention to expand our relationship.”

The chief of staff of the South Korean army, Kam Sang Ki, said last week he hoped the troops would “help increase the national status of the Republic of Korea”, using the official name for the country.

Well, there certainly has been some effort made to increase Korea’s recognition in the UAE – including the “Made in Korea Expo.”  In addition Etihad Airways flies between Korea and the UAE every day and medical care and research.

How did close relationship between South Korea and the UEA come about?

The original request for South Korea to provide the UAE with special-forces training was announced after the $20 billion (Dh73.5bn) agreement in December 2009 for a South Korean-led consortium to build four nuclear power stations in Abu Dhabi emirate.

When the first troops were dispatched, the South Korean president, Lee Myung Bak, said the programme would “significantly help solidify our energy security and expand trade in the Middle East”.

President Lee was not kidding.  In April The National reported:

“Korea is planning to provide training programmes for young UAE workers for the operation and construction of the power plants,” he said. “Eventually, I believe that our two nations will be able to work together to advance into a third country’s market for nuclear power plant construction projects.”

Similar joint venture investments could be on the cards in agriculture, Mr Choi said, given the heavy reliance of both countries on imported food. The UAE imports almost all of its food, and Korea imports about 70 per cent of staple grain products.

“If we work together to advance into a third country’s agricultural sector to carry out joint agricultural projects, I believe that we will not only feed both countries’ people but also create lucrative business opportunities,” he said.

It was too early to say which countries a joint investment in agriculture would target, Mr Choi said, but it would ideally be in regions that have more than one growing season a year.

Other forms of co-operation in making semiconductors, water management, shipping and small business development could also lie in the future, he said.

Interesting use of pixelization

Not that I feel terribly bad for a bunch of Somali pirates, who should probably count themselves lucky they were hung from the radar mast of the ROKS Choi Young, but just out of curiosity, why are the faces of the cops in this photo pixelated but the faces of the accused aren’t?

As expected, the trial is running into linguistic difficulties:

The first session included identification of the defendants, which took 14 minutes longer than the usual two because of three-way interpretation from Korean to English to Somali and back again. Legal analysts say the language barrier could be a stumbling block for both prosecutors and the Somalis’ four-member defense team.

None of this would have been a problem if they’d just hung ‘em at sea. As Fulbright scholar Dolph Lundgren said in “The Expendables,” “It’s good to hang pirates.”

Oh, and props to this guy:

“I came here to see what pirates look like and talk about them with my friends later,” said Jeong Yun-jin, a 75-year-old Busan citizen, who was in the courtroom. “It [piracy] is not something we are supposed to do as human beings. They should make a living from their labor.”

So, I take it you don’t approve of the Bin Laden killing, then?

I’m guessing the Hankyoreh’s editorial cartoonist takes issue with certain aspects of the Osama Bin Laden killing.

The Hani also ran an editorial decrying the execution of an unarmed OBL as a violation of international law. You can read the thing on your own: I’ll just quote the last two paragraphs (quickly translating):

That the United States did not inform the Pakistani government before starting the operation, too, reveals the illegality of the operation. The United States claims it was worried about the information leaking, but this is just an excuse. It just showed once again their arrogant attitude that to accomplish their own goals, they show no regard for another country’s sovereignty.

Bin Laden’s killing might have temporarily satisfied the desire for revenge of Americans, resentful of the 9.11 attacks. In the long-range view, however, it is very possible Bin Laden’s killing may in fact harm global peace and security. Responding to violence with more violence leads to even greater misfortune. There are even sarcastic remarks emerging that by killing Bin Laden, the US military made him a martyr. The United States committed a grave error in judgment.

Responding to violence with more violence leads to even greater misfortune, eh? You mean, like Ahn Jung-geun?

Osama Bin Laden unarmed when killed

So… it turns out that Osama Bin Laden was executed while he was unarmed:

Osama bin Laden was unarmed when Navy commandos shot him, the White House said Tuesday in a revised version of how the world’s most notorious terrorist was killed.
[...]
Although others at the compound were involved in a firefight with the U.S. commandos, bin Laden “was not armed,” Carney said Tuesday, adding that it doesn’t mean he didn’t resist in some way.

Additionally, the unarmed wife, who rushed the assailants as they moved toward her husband, was shot in the leg but not killed, Carney said. Another woman on a lower floor of the compound was killed when she got caught in the crossfire between the SEALs and the men living at the compound with bin Laden.

This apparently bothers some people (see, too, the analysis in the Guardian here). Personally, I find the thought of Osama being double-tapped in the head by a Navy SEAL much more appealing than him going out in a blaze of glory, and both alternatives infinitely more appealing than the circus of a trial. Still, I suppose opinions differ.

Also, there’s apparently a war of words going on between the United States and our valiant (and well-paid) allies in the War on Terror, Pakistan, with CIA director Leon Panetta making some very frank comments about why Pakistan was kept in the dark about the operation. I read an interview this morning with former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf that nearly made me spew coffee on my monitor:

Musharraf: “I do agree that (the news about bin Laden in Pakistan) is surprising and a lot of people in Pakistan are not believing that. This is unfortunate. It needs to be investigated. Who slipped up? Why this negligence?”

Logan: “You are really asking people to believe that this all happened without the knowledge of the intelligence services and the military and that it came as a complete surprise?”

Musharraf: “Yes, yes, I am saying that and I mean every word of it.”

Logan: “It’s just very hard to believe that Osama bin Laden could have spent all this time in Pakistan, living right under your noses and nobody would have known about it?”

Musharraf: “Why you continuously saying that? I think instead of wasting time on this issue, let us agree to disagree on this point. I don’t agree.”

The Pakistani foreign minister reportedly finds some of the comments coming from Migukistan “disquieting.” What I find disquieting is this observation by Chris Hitchens:

If you tell me that you are staying in a rather nice walled compound in Abbottabad, I can tell you in return that you are the honored guest of a military establishment that annually consumes several billion dollars of American aid. It’s the sheer blatancy of it that catches the breath.

Things are about to get very, very interesting with Pakistan.

Osama bin Laden Dead: Reports

President Obama is scheduled to go on TV tonight (Miguk time) to give a special security-related address.

He’s not saying what yet, but according to numerous reports, it appears has been killed Osama bin Laden, and we (Miguk) have his body.

How and where he was killed, I guess we’ll find out soon enough. Sadly, I think it is very unlikely he was blown from a gun, the fate I, being a traditionalist, would personally have preferred for him.

UPDATE: Here’s BHO’s address:

According to the address, Bin Laden was wacked in a compound in the lovely town of Abbottabad, a city that, according to Wikipedia, is “well-known throughout Pakistan for its pleasant weather, high standard educational institutions and military establishments.” Interestingly enough, the town is named for British army officer and colonial administrator Major James Abbott, making it a somewhat odd choice of residence for the mastermind behind an act committed “in aggrieved response to imperial aggression.” But hey, I’m sure that like any good father, Bin Laden was there for the schools. The Guardian also reports that the district is home to Pakistan’s main military training institution:

Abbottabad is about a two hour drive north of Islamabad, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. It is not part of the tribal belt, where the CIA drone strike campaign has been concentrated, but is home to the Pakistan military’s main training institution, the Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul.

The fact that bin Laden was killed outside the tribal belt in Pakistan will raise questions about how the six-foot-four fugitive, one of the most famous faces in the world, managed to escape justice for so long.

Like I said, I guess we’ll be learning more soon enough.

UPDATE: We have more on the operation, including how they found them, where he was living (spoiler: it wasn’t a Saddam Hussein-esque rat hole) and how he died.

UPDATE: In the Guardian, Simon Tisdall says Pakistan has got some explaining to do:

Tellingly, the Pakistani government was not informed beforehand of the American special forces’ raid. The truth is, US officials would simply not have trusted their counterparts in Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful security and spy agency, with such sensitive information.

Extremely pointed questions are now certain to be asked about whether the ISI or its various branches and minions, knew of the existence of the highly unusual, heavily fortified, expensively built compound in Abbottabad, 35 miles north of Islamabad – and of its high-value, low-profile tenant. If they did, why did they not investigate? If they did not, was it because they didn’t want to know?

The most damaging (and familiar) suspicion, which is certain to resurface in the coming days, is that elements within the ISI who have maintained links with terrorist groups such as the Haqqani network, did indeed know Bin Laden and his retinue were in Abbottabad, and by keeping silent, were effectively providing him with protection.

As somebody on the radio just pointed out, he was staying in a fortified compound near three Pakistani army regiments. I certainly don’t want to rush to judgment about our valiant allies in the Global War on Terror, but this doesn’t look very good for Pakistan.

Nice to see the celebrations in America. Granted, I don’t think Bin Laden’s death will change a whole lot (in fact, it may lead to a spate of retaliatory strikes), but I guess we should allow ourselves a moment of joy, at least before we get really, really pissed at Pakistan.

UPDATE: Great story about the man who inadvertently live-tweeted the raid:

It was about 1am local time or 12 hours ago, when world-weary Sohaib Athar tweeted under the handle @ReallyVirtual: “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” and “Go away helicopter – before I take out my giant swatter.”

He then describes hearing a “huge windows shaking bang.” In discussions with other Twitter users he goes on to impart that the helicopter is gone and that a few others online are saying that one of the now multiple helicopters “was not Pakistani.”

Over the next few hours Athar muses if the owners of the helicopters are Taliban or drones, and expresses suspicion at reports that the apparent crash is connected to breaking news about Osama Bin Laden’s death. It turned out the helicopters belonged to U.S. forces. “Uh oh, now I’m the guy who liveblogged the Osama raid without knowing it,” Athar tweeted.

Somali pirates like Korean food, interpreter brought in from UK

The Seoul Shinmun reports that the five Somali pirates being detaining in Busan slept cleaned their dinner plates and slept very well their first night in Korea.

According to Busan maritime police, the pirates were provided a meal of rice, kimchi fried rice, doenjang soup, fried egg and japchae. The police said they cleaned their plates, and slept very, very well at night.

In the morning, the pirates were given a breakfast of rice, dongtaetguk, fried egg, kimchi and tofu. Once again, they cleaned their plates.

Asked in English about Korean food, one of the pirates responded with “good, good,” said the police.

Screw Egypt — the really gripping news is happening in Busan.

A police official said the pirates spent their first night in Korea without expressions of fear or nervousness, and that while their crime was serious, they would do their best to protect them while in the tank given the special circumstances, namely, that they are “foreign pirates.”

The Seoul Shinmun also reports that a British interpreter is being brought in for the pirates’ trial.

A government official said the Foreign Ministry has been looking for an interpreter fluent in Somali and English, and they think they can get one in the UK, where Korea’s ambassador for international cooperation on terrorism visited last week and asked for help finding an interpreter.

Two Somalis in Korea on refugee visas have been participating in the investigation, with the interpretation going from Somali to English to Korean.

The trial will need more precise interpretation, including legal terminology, so the government believes it needs another Somali translator.

Oh, and in more pirate news, one of the pirates who testified that he shot the captain of the Samho Jewelry is now denying it.

Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that Mohamed Rage, minister for maritime transport, ports and counter-piracy at Puntland, Somalia, approves of Korea’s recent actions:

Said Mohamed Rage, minister for maritime transport, ports and counter-piracy at Puntland, Somalia, praised Korea’s counteraction toward the outlaws. “The strong action against pirate criminals by the navies of South Korea and Malaysia on Jan. 21 is a clear indication of resolve on the part of the international community,” he said in a press release, adding that there are more than 280 pirates detained at the state government cell.

Keep up the good work there, Minister Rage.

Video of recapture of Samho Jewelry

(HT to Yeongung)

SK Commandos Practice Their Skills on Pirates

South Korean commandos have retaken the Samho Jewelry, freeing the crew and reportedly eight pirates had been killed and five captured.  I appreciate the president’s comments: “We will not tolerate any behavior that threatens the lives and safety of our people in the future.” which I hope includes North Korea.

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