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[Editorial] IS terror risks mount

South Korea under extremist group’s threat

It is urgent for the government to raise the alarm and map out security measures against possible terror attacks from the jihadist extremist group the Islamic State, aside from its readiness posture over another North Korean provocation.

Seoul may have to take the terror threat more seriously than the habitual blackmail from Pyongyang. The nation is not safe from IS-led terrorism -- the militant group included South Korea twice, in September and November last year, as one of its future destinations for possible attacks. The government should benchmark the U.S. and China, both of which have issued cautions to their military and citizens over IS attacks.

The seriousness concerning the militant group has come to the fore again in the global community in the wake of recent incidents in Syria and Bangladesh. On Sunday, suicide bombings in a district in Syria claimed by jihadists killed 142 people. IS said it was behind the carnage.

According to Syria’s official news agency SANA, a car bombing followed by two consecutive suicide attacks ripped through the area of the Shiite shrine of Sayyida Zeinab near the capital Damascus and killed 83 people. SANA said 178 people, including children, were wounded. It said the attacks came as pupils were leaving school in the area.

The same day, the IS claimed it was behind the beheading of a senior Hindu priest and wounding of two worshippers in Bangladesh. In a statement, the IS said that “caliphate soldiers” had carried out the assaults.

The Hindu priest was attacked by two assailants armed with pistols and cleavers at his home in the temple on Sunday, according to the country’s police. Its government is looking into whether it really was committed by the IS.

There was a similar case in Jakarta earlier this year. Terrorism incidents in Bangladesh and Indonesia are a wake-up call for countries in East Asia, as it illustrated the rising influence of the IS group upon homegrown jihadists in the region.

Korea should also take the wake-up call seriously, as we reiterate that it is one of the 62 countries that have joined the alliance to fight IS. In a statement issued following the Jakarta attacks, the jihadist group made it clear that it would target civilians of countries in the alliance.

In combating terrorism, the key lies in prevention. Terror attacks should be stopped before they occur. This requires good intelligence. So it is essential that the government builds up its intelligence capabilities.

Simultaneously, the National Intelligence Service should also be cautious in its low-key information gathering, as it could lead to encroachment upon privacy and civil liberties. We hope the nation finds the right balance between citizens’ right to privacy and its readiness to combat terrorism.