Posted by: lrrp | November 23, 2007

One dream – one world: Olympic free of terror threats

The nation of Dragons is fully geared to host the global event – Beijing Olympics 2008 – with every corner of the city is decorated with Olympic colours, symbols and its motto “One Dream – One World.” But whether its security establishments are prepared to take up the challenge of any ‘disturbing effort’ by global terror groups remains an unanswered question.

No one on earth can answer this hypothetical question, let alone the Chinese. But, Beijing is getting its eyes and ears sharpened through many avenues to make the global event free of any such disturbing incident, a move that needs assistance from all the nations around the world, including the US, an unsung arch rival of China.

The US, the main actor in the global war against terror, is still reluctant to collaborate with the Chinese in the counter-terrorism front. China, too, has its own way of ‘doing things’ which annoy the West. Like for many other instances, sport is the best opportunity to break the ice. Olympics and its preparations could play a significant role in bridging the gaps in security fronts between China and the West, especially with the US, at least in combating global terrorism.

China is not a declared ‘enemy’ of the global terror network Al-Qaeda. Bin Laden, in all his speeches since 9/11 has mentioned China only in two instances along with several other countries, without any specific references to Beijing. China so far is a neutral player for Al Qaeda, but closely watching its future role once it becomes a global leader. Would China join the West in its global war against terror and support ‘bogus’ Muslim states, is the present worry among Al-Qaeda leadership. It would also closely monitor how future China is going to treat the Jews. China, therefore, is not a target of Al-Qaeda, so far.

But the Olympic is. For Islamic extremists, Olympic is an event of the West and its activities and surroundings are very much against the ‘fundamentals of pure Islam.’ Hence, the event itself had been a major attraction of Jihadi movements for some time. The PLO launched an attack on Munich Olympics in 1972. Someone could claim that this attack is no more relevant to the present day context, but its reasons behind and the justifications are still remain valid, even after 35 years.

The attackers always look for better ways of getting maximum publicity for their cause through major cross-border impact. For an example, if one considers the July 07 attacks in London, it signified two events – the UK’s victory of the next Olympic venue against France (July 06) and the G8 Summit (July 8). Thus, Olympics provide a fabulous opportunity to gain maximum publicity through a major impact. Therefore, the intention of the potential terror networks would be extremely high to make use of the opportunity to reach their goals.

Who are the capable groups that could launch an attack on Beijing Olympics?

As Chinese authorities believe, it can be from many fronts. They suspect Tibetan movements, Southern Thai insurgents, Faalung Gong activists, anti China NGOs or some entities (probably countries) who are not happy with Chinese policies.

But the most capable groups which are highly active and motivated in conducting such an attack are the Jihadi movements operating in the East Tajikistan region. Among them, the most dangerous is East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist Muslim group operating in China’s western Xinjiang province.

The ETIM, one of the most militant and highly networked groups in the region, demands separation from China and the creation of an independent state called East Turkestan. With operating cells in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan, ETIM has carried out more than 200 attacks since 1990, killing 162 people. Its close links with the Uzbek Islamic Movement (UIM), another Jihadi movement in the region, is also a strong worrying factor to Chinese.

China has long viewed the ETIM, a listed terrorist outfit by both US and the UN, and similar groups as a threat to its territorial integrity. The US has detained many ETIM members in Guntanamo Bay and refuses to hand over them to China fearing execution, a traditional punishment by China.

Its link with Al Qaeda is well known to the research and intelligence agencies. Initially a nationalistic movement lead by Hassan Maksum, ETIM has been turned into a major Jihadi movement under the present leadership of Abdul Qadeer Haj. Most of its cadres had been trained in Waziristan by two brothers – Abu Yahiya Lebbe and Abu Lethe Lebbe. Two prominent cadres who were recently arrested by Chinese operatives in Hong Kong divulged details about the movement and its future operations.

It is important to notice that the majority of the Xinjiang Muslim population do not support ETIM – they prefer the rule of Chinese government. China has destroyed more than 10 ETIM camps for the past couple of years and launched successful operations to crush the group while implementing socio-economic development programs in the region. The total number of ETIM cadres does not exceed 500 with a comprehensive portion of it gaining Al-Qaeda training in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The training included suicide bombing, a major concern for Chinese, especially during the Olympics.

According to intelligence reports Al Qaeda’s instructions to ETIM had been to operate in and outside of Xingjian. Hit small number of symbolic, high profile, specific targets with high impact and also to conduct suicide attacks.

Though they had been trained, it is highly arguable whether the ETIM can practically carry out such attacks against Olympics. It may have the intention, capacity to some extend, but whether it has the required opportunities is the million worth question.

Conducting a high intensity attack in Beijing by ETIM is a remote possibility, believe many security experts. They may have to transport explosives from far (probably from Tajik or Uzbek borders) to Beijing and conduct a highly secretive preparation in order to carry out such an operation, which is an extremely a difficult task given the high security network in the capital. But the threat probabilities could never be ruled out.

Chinese security services have already commenced their home work and adopting necessary precautions against such possible incidents, Beijing authorities said. Security has already been tightened and plain cloths sleuths are on high alert everywhere. However, they require more knowledge on modus operandi of terrorist activities and also networking with other intelligence agencies, especially those of the West. It should not confine to ETIM, but should even learn about the behavioural patterns of groups like the LTTE.

The threats shall necessarily be in China or its capital alone. All Chinese interests around the globe could be vulnerable, if the Jihadi movements intend to make some disturbance to the Games. In that case, not only the Chinese interests, but the key participating nations should also be vigilant.

Also, the Chinese should be vigilant on the infiltrations into its system by other groups like the LTTE which would, eventually open doors for many like-minded terror networks. For example, the US counter-terrorism experts who are investigating on Pradeean Thavarasa, the second in command of LTTE international finance and procurement division found that the LTTE has purchased arms and ammunitions from Norinco – the weapon dealing arm of the Chinese government. It was discovered that the dealing has taken place through a subsidiary of Norinco called Jang.

The LTTE has produced bogus end-user certificates for this purchase – its usual practice in procuring weapons from State entities. Such activities would not only undermine the credibility of Chinese State entities, but would also open doors for many other groups by setting unethical trends.

At last, the major threat does not alway
s come from the major groups or networks. The present threats are basically emanating from the home-grown extremists who have learnt the know-how of attacks through internet. Indoctrinated by Islamic fundamental teachings through hundreds of websites, these attackers launch low-scale attacks against Western targets. China should be mindful of all these possibilities, if we are to enjoy a peaceful Olympic on 08.08.2008 – a day of happiness according to Chinese belief.

JVP statement clarified by Prof. Indraratna

“My attention has been drawn to a reference to me in the Daily Mirror today, in an interview given by Mr. Somawansa Amerasinghe on the 2008.Budget. He has quoted me quite out of context from my Presidential Address at the 2007 Annual Sessions of the Sri Lanka Economic Association, at which the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Ajith Nivard Cabraal was the Chief Guest. The theme of my address was on Inequity and Poverty: Causes and Consequences and Implications for Development. There was no reference in this whatsoever to either the vision of the Government or the 2008 Budget. My immediate comments on the Budget were telecast on the ITN and the Sirasa, in the course of which I, in fact, raised the question whether, in the context of serious challenges facing the Government such as the rocketing international fuel prices, the imminent need to significantly increase the defence expenditure to eradicate the menacing terrorism and to sustain high growth rate to reduce unemployment and poverty , two major problems of the country, the Government could have presented a better budget.”

I shall be grateful if you will give the same publicity to the above statement as you have given to Mr.Amarasinghe’s interview.



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