August 26, 2004
Canadians in Asia face terror risk

OTTAWA (CP) - Islamic extremists with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network pose a threat to Canadians living in Southeast Asia, warns a newly obtained intelligence report.

In the wake of major bombings in Indonesia during the last two years, "soft targets" such as hotels, nightclubs, restaurants and other venues frequented by foreigners are considered "particularly vulnerable" to terrorist assaults, the report says.

"Previous attacks resulting in injuries and deaths of Canadians in Southeast Asia demonstrate that direct and indirect threats exist to Canadian and Canadian interests in the region."

The report, Islamic Extremism in Southeast Asia, was completed in April by Canada's national security assessment centre, a federal body based in Ottawa that includes representatives of various intelligence agencies, including the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

An edited version, stripped of some particularly sensitive material related to Canada, was released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

Canada has listed a number of groups active in Southeast Asia as terrorist entities under the Criminal Code, including al-Qaida, the Abu Sayyaf Group and Jemaah Islamiyah.

Two Canadians were among 202 people killed in October 2002 when bombs ripped through two Bali nightclubs and a U.S. consular office.

In August last year, a car bomb exploded at the Marriott Hotel in central Jakarta, killing 14 and wounding about 150 including a Canadian banker.

Jemaah Islamiyah, a financial and logistical partner of al-Qaida, was linked to both Indonesian attacks.

The report says although much of the recent terrorist activity in the region has occurred in Indonesia and the Philippines, countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore "face a significant threat."

It notes that at least two of the al-Qaida hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States took part in planning sessions in Malaysia in January 2000.

The RCMP recently moved its liaison officer in Southeast Asia to Malaysia from Singapore "in order to be better situated to do the work that is required," a spokesman for the force said Thursday.

The move is intended to increase co-operation with authorities in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, the RCMP said.

In September 2002, Ottawa began requiring citizens of Malaysia to have a visitor visa to enter Canada because the Asian country's passport system was considered vulnerable to abuse.

"Malaysia has not demonstrated the necessary will nor that it possesses the infrastructure to deny the use of its passports to terrorists, criminals or other inadmissible persons," Canada said at the time.

A report this month by Canada's Criminal Intelligence Service said Asian organized crime groups continue to be involved in the smuggling and trafficking of people, particularly women from southeast Asia, to Canada and the U.S.

In a Calgary-based operation, individuals involved in massage parlours were targeted for arranging the transportation of women from Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam to Canada, the report said.

Once in Canada, the women were forced into a "prostitution circuit" that included Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton to pay large smuggling debts.