Al Qaeda may hit Asian financial hubs-French judge
Reuters | August 25, 2005
LONDON - Al Qaeda could be planning an attack on Asian financial centers to try to undermine investor confidence in the region, a senior French anti-terrorism judge said in an interview on Thursday.
Speaking to Britain's Financial Times newspaper, Jean-Louis Bruguiere said an attack on Tokyo, Singapore or Sydney would be symbolically important for al Qaeda.
"We have several elements of information that make us think that countries in this region, especially Japan, could have been targeted," Bruguiere said without elaborating on the intelligence or nature of the threat.
He said several Asian countries were less prepared for an attack than the United States or Europe, which have both been targeted by Osama bin Laden's network.
U.S. authorities stepped up security after the September 11, 2001 attacks, while police have been on alert in Europe since deadly bombings in Madrid in 2004 and in London on July 7.
"We are somewhat neglecting the capacity or desire of the al Qaeda organization to destabilize the southeast Asia region," Bruguiere said, according to a transcript of the interview on the newspaper's Web site (www.ft.com).
"We forget that the al Qaeda organization is sharpening its strategy, more than just focusing on so-called soft targets it is looking to hit economic and financial centers."
Asked where he saw the next threat coming from, the magistrate said there was also a "serious danger" of more violence stretching from the Caucuses through central Asia to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He warned that people had underestimated the dangers.
"There is not enough public consciousness of the terrorist risk," Bruguiere said. "There is more work to be done to sensitize the public to the threat."
He said the Iraq war had raised the threat of attacks in Europe by boosting al Qaeda recruitment and propaganda.
"The incontestable catalyst of this upsurge is Iraq," he said. "Since 2003 we have seen an increase in propaganda and recruitment by al Qaeda organizations using the Iraq problem as an extremely powerful lever to justify the amplification of the jihad (Islamic holy struggle)."