SINGAPORE: The al-Qaeda terrorist organisation is likely to surprise with more Bali-like attacks this year, an academician warned.
Dr Rohan Gunaratna, author of the recently-released book Inside Al Qaeda, said al-Qaeda was growing into a more significant threat and the new year would witness several key terrorist trends and patterns with soft targets that could be attacked with least effort and cost.
Most attacks will be against Western targets located in the global south, Dr Gunaratna, a terrorism consultant to several governments and corporations, said, adding that this was where the terrorist network still had space and time to operate. Suicide bombings would be the most predominant form of attacks as these are difficult to disrupt during the execution stage, he added.
Al-Qaeda will be able to conduct fewer attacks but these are likely to become spectacular or theatrical attacks.
First, there will be mass casualty attacks, second, the abundant use of suicide terrorism, third, bombings and fourth, assassination, he said in his paper on Terrorism in South-East Asia: What to Expect at the Institute of South-East Asian Studies (Iseas) Regional Outlook Forum held at a hotel here.
He said the organisation would have no problem acquiring weapons. Al-Qaeda and their associates will use what can be readily purchased off-the-shelf from pharmacies, chemist shops and hardware stores to make weapons.
Dr Gunaratnas lecture was a highlight of the day-long forum which drew speakers from the United States, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Malaysia who presented papers on various topics to some 550 participants.
Dr Gunaratna, who is at present an associate professor at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore, said South-East Asia could not be divorced from the terrorist networks due to the early groundwork done by terrorist leaders such as Ayman Zawahiri.
However, he singled out the Malaysian and Singapore governments for acting to deplete the terrorist networks, adding that these groups were still very resilient in Indonesia and the Philippines.
At the same forum, the head of the United States Institute of Peace said that the Bush administration was unlikely to wage war unilaterally against Iraq.
Dr Richard H. Solomon, a former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said history had proven that United States rarely took forceful action alone.
Its military engagements abroad almost always have been undertaken as coalition enterprises.
Even in current circumstances, where many fear unilateral US military action against Iraq, it is evident that the Bush administration, despite what reportedly have been vigorous internal debates, (has) committed itself to work through the UN Security Council, he added in his paper on Seven Challenges to International Security: Asia and the World Since 9/11.
However, Dr Solomon said that the question for the coming decades was whether formal international structures such as Asean and the United Nations would become effective mechanisms of collective action in countering threats.