Terrorism that goes unseen
Following its beheading of two Japanese hostages, the radical Islamic State (ISIS), a violent jihadist group, burned Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh alive, and released the video clip of the execution on Feb. 3. The world was once again shocked by the savagery of ISIS.
Since March last year, the group has murdered nine foreign hostages. In addition to the two Japanese men, three Americans, two Brits, one Russian and one Jordanian were killed.
On Feb. 1, the group also unveiled a video clip of the beheading of three Iraqi military and police officials they captured from their occupational territory. That was evidence that anyone could be their target. Although ISIS seems unfamiliar to us, it actually has history with Korea. The Jama’at al-Tawhid wal Jihad, which kidnapped and beheaded Korean translator Kim Sun-il in Iraq in June 2004, is the predecessor to ISIS.
Established by the Jordanian national Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 1999, the group rapidly developed after the Iraq War in 2003 through various terrorist activities. By integrating other groups, Zarqawi changed his group’s name to Al Qaeda in Iraq. Before his death in 2006, he united even more armed groups and created the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Islamic insurgent groups.
After the notorious Zarqawi died in a U.S.-led bombing, his successor, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, changed the organization’s name to the Islamic State of Iraq. After his death in May 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took power, and he launched the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2011 to expand its influence to Syria, where a civil war was waging. After seizing control over the western region of Iraq and eastern territory in Syria, the group declared on June 29, 2014, that it will now become the Islamic State. Since then, it has strengthened its grip over the areas that it has control over and committed cruel terrorist acts to promote its presence.
On the Internet, a series of video images featuring brutal killings by its members are posted one after another. They killed a woman by stoning her and pushed a man off a high-rise building because he was homosexual. Public beheadings are common practice.
It is a bloodthirsty terrorist group.
It is, however, not a group that we can take lightly. They are the first extreme Islamic fundamentalists who have declared that they will create a state. They are different from existing jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda because they had to operate covertly under the oppression of the Middle Eastern countries and the international community. In the areas where the Iraqi and Syrian governments have lost their control, ISIS has expanded its influence as a self-declared caliph country, raised funds, trained soldiers and sent terrorists throughout the world.
They are exporting terror and have secured an outlet that no other terrorist group, including Al Qaeda, managed to secure in the past. Through this outlet, the world’s radical Muslim populations are uniting. Many international citizens, not just Islamic fundamentalists, have been lured into this web, converted to Islam and been used for terrorism. They not only export terrorists, but also plant them in various places worldwide. This is why they are so threatening.
The more serious issue is the excellent promotional power of the ISIS. They are on a different level from 20th century terrorist groups, which produced poorly executed videos or Arabic-language statements. They are 21st century terrorists who have evolved.
Easily readable English-language messages are posted on the Internet along with sophisticatedly edited high-resolution videos. They use all the popular social network services, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Ask.fm and VK, to promote their arguments directly to millions of youngsters around the world. Using encrypted messengers, they have managed to avoid tracking by intelligence agencies. Many youngsters from 80 countries, including a Korean teenager, only known by his last name Kim, have been trapped.
The international community is reacting sensitively to their terrorist threats, calling them a public enemy against world peace. The United States, which has withdrawn its involvement in the Middle East, is also returning to lead military operations to root out ISIS, although it is only participating air strikes. After ISIS declared that it will expand its influence to all Arabic nations including Saudi Arabia, other countries have joined the military operation to eliminate ISIS.
The United Nations also joined in the efforts to stop ISIS terrorist movements and activities. The resolution to target foreign terrorist fighters, approved unanimously in September 2014, stated that each member country must create a law to prevent the spread of terrorism.
We have already suffered losses by international terrorist groups. Now, the time has come for Korea to actively participate in creating a law to prevent terrorism. This is a necessity for the safety of our own people.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff
*The author is a professor of Middle East and African Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
by Seo Jeong-min