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EDITORIAL - A threat that won’t go away

() - April 23, 2004 - 12:00am
It could be a false alarm from a group of crackpots. Still, Philippine security officials are coordinating with Seoul on the threat of a South Korean organization to launch terrorist attacks within the month against the Philippines and seven other allies of the United States. Reports yesterday said the group, which calls itself the Yellow-Red Overseas Organization, aired the threat in a letter sent to the South Korean embassy in Bangkok, Thailand – one of the eight countries purportedly on the hit list. Security officials are trying to ascertain if the group exists.

Even as Philippine and Korean security officials took precautionary measures, the British embassy renewed its travel warning on the Philippines yesterday, citing the weekend attack on the headquarters in Makati of Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. as well as fresh threats of Abu Sayyaf terrorism.

The administration, preoccupied with the candidacy of President Arroyo, was reminded of the urgency of the threat in a meeting at Malacañang last month with officials of the United States and at least two other countries. That meeting was followed by a series of operations that led to the killing or arrest of suspected Abu Sayyaf members as well as the confiscation of a big cache of explosives in Metro Manila. The manhunt for Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani, largely forgotten by government forces, was revived.

In Mindanao yesterday, police officials reassured the public that an Abu Sayyaf plot to attack churches and shopping malls in Zamboanga City had been foiled. By the looks of it, however, the government is once again distracted from the war on terror by rumblings on the political front. Government forces are stretched thin, protecting candidates from communist extortion and keeping anti-administration political destabilization in check.

This situation can be exploited by extremists. Security officials must remind government forces that the terrorist threat is one problem that won’t go away during the election period. The threat could in fact be greater during the homestretch of the campaign period, when everyone is distracted by politics. The nation can’t afford to let down its guard.

ABU SAYYAF IN MINDANAO KHADAFFY JANJALANI MAKATI OF PILIPINAS SHELL PETROLEUM CORP METRO MANILA PHILIPPINE AND KOREAN PRESIDENT ARROYO SOUTH KOREAN UNITED STATES YELLOW-RED OVERSEAS ORGANIZATION ZAMBOANGA CITY
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