- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

SEOUL (Agence France-Presse) — Agents from Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network made repeated visits to South Korea recently scouting for U.S. targets, a lawmaker said yesterday, citing a closed-door intelligence briefing to parliament.

Ham Seung-hui, a member of the Millennium Democratic Party, said that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) was now on terrorism alert to respond to reported al Qaeda activity in South Korea.

“The NIS briefing said suspected al Qaeda members had checked security of the U.S. troops in South Korea on two or three occasions recently,” Mr. Ham said in an interview.

One suspected al Qaeda member was detained at a South Korean airport for 10 hours last year before being expelled, he said, citing the intelligence briefing.

Another was expelled earlier this year from South Korea. He was believed to be examining security at South Korean airports and carrying out the same task in the Philippines.

South Korea, a U.S. ally for 50 years, hosts 37,000 U.S. troops at about 90 military posts. The country is also home to about 100,000 U.S. civilians, and a wide range of U.S. business interests.

NIS officials confirmed that the briefing had taken place but declined to reveal details, saying the meeting was confidential.

However, Mr. Ham said the briefing focused on the latest intelligence concerning monitoring of U.S. troop movements here by suspected members of al Qaeda, the network blamed for the September 11 terrorist attacks.

“Recently, the al Qaeda network is increasingly turning its attention to Northeast Asian countries, amplifying chances of terror in the region,” the lawmaker said.

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