Al Qaeda Threaten to Behead South Korean Hostage

Reuters — Iraq Group Threatens to Behead S. Korean

An Iraqi group has threatened to behead a South Korean hostage if Seoul does not end cooperation with U.S. occupying authorities, a videotape aired on Arabic television station Al Jazeera said on Monday.

“We ask you to withdraw your forces from our land and not to send any more troops, and if not we’ll send you this Korean’s head,” one of a group of armed, masked man standing around the Korean man said.

A banner in the background named the group as Jama’at al-Tawhid and Jihad, the name of the militant group led by al Qaeda operative in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The video showed the Korean, who Al Jazeera said named himself as Kim Song Il, shouting violently at the camera: “Please get out of here, here, here. I don’t want to die.”

South Korea, which already has some non-combat personnel including engineers and medics deployed in Iraq, said Friday it would start to deploy 3,000 troops to the Arbil area in early August to help rebuild the northern Kurdish region.

In Seoul, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council that advises President Roh Moo-hyun said by telephone South Korean officials were checking the report and had no immediate comment. Other officials also had no reaction so far.

There has been vocal opposition in South Korea to Seoul’s decision to send troops to Iraq. Roh views the deployment as a crucial gesture to support Seoul’s main ally, the United States, which has 37,500 troops in South Korea to deter North Korea.

Beheading prisoners or cutting their throats has been a shock tactic among al Qaeda militants for some time. Last month, Zarqawi’s group beheaded American hostage Nick Berg in Iraq. In 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was also beheaded in Pakistan.

Friday, al Qaeda militants in Saudi Arabia beheaded American hostage Paul Johnson.

Sadly, if these kidnappings and beheadings continue, we’ll soon get to the point where these things don’t even make the news.

Hat tip: Dean Esmay

UPDATE: AP — Al-Jazeera Airs Video of S. Korea Hostage

The Arab satellite TV network Al-Jazeera aired a videotape Sunday purportedly from al-Qaida linked militants showing a South Korean hostage begging for his life and pleading with his government to withdraw troops from Iraq.

The kidnappers, who identified themselves as belonging to a group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, gave South Korea (news – web sites) 24 hours to meet its demand or “we will send you the head of this Korean.”

“Please, get out of here,” the man screamed in English, flailing his arms. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I know that your life is important, but my life is important.”

A South Korean television news station, YTN, identified the hostage as Kim Sun-il, 33, an employee of a South Korean company called Arab Trading. It said he was captured in the Fallujah area.

The video came two days after news of the beheading of American hostage Paul Johnson by Saudi militants, and an announcement Friday by South Korea that it will send 3,000 soldiers to northern Iraq beginning in early August. Once the deployment is complete, South Korea will be the largest coalition partner after the United States and Britain.

After showing the hostage’s plea, the tape showed him kneeling in front of three masked men, one of them armed with a Kalashnikov. The man standing in the middle read a statement in Arabic.

“Our message to the South Korean government and the Korean people: We first demand you withdraw your forces from our lands and not send more of your forces to this land. Otherwise, we will send to you the head of this Korean, and we will follow it by the heads of your other soldiers.”

The statement gave Seoul 24 hours starting from sunset Sunday to meet its demand.

An Al-Jazeera staff member at the network headquarters in Qatar, Mohammed al-Saadi, told The Associated Press by telephone that the two-minute videotape was mailed to the Al-Jazeera bureau in Baghdad.

“Our office in Baghdad received an unknown package; they opened it and they found the tape,” al-Saadi said.

The group identified itself as Monotheism and Jihad; its purported leader, al-Zarqawi, is a Jordanian-born terrorist linked to al-Qaida.

On Saturday, Seoul warned its people not to travel to Iraq, saying its decision to send troops might prompt terror attacks on South Koreans.

That warning came amid news of the beheading Johnson by Saudi militants, although it did not mention the incident.

“At this time, we cannot rule out the possibility of harm to our nationals, following the official announcement of the additional troop dispatch to Iraq,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil said in a statement.

“The government urges the people to refrain from visiting Iraq,” it said.

South Korea plans to send 900 troops to Kurdish-controlled Irbil in early August, followed by about 1,100 troops between late August and early September. An additional 1,000 soldiers will travel to Iraq later.

South Korea already has 600 military medics and engineers in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah.

Seoul has portrayed the dispatch as a way of strengthening its alliance with the United States, thereby winning more support from Washington for a peaceful end to a long-running dispute over North Korea (news – web sites)’s nuclear weapons development.

Johnson, 49, an engineer who had worked in Saudi Arabia for more than a decade, was kidnapped last weekend by militants who followed through on a threat to kill him by Friday if the Saudi kingdom did not release its al-Qaida prisoners.

UPDATE (6/22): Sadly, Mr. Kim was murdered today. See: Kim Sun-il Beheaded by Islamists

FILED UNDER: Terrorism,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jem says:

    Don’t hold your breath, James. Our friends at al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya make their money by publicizing this stuff. And it certainly plays into the prejudices of those who think the War on Terror should be about examining ourselves to figure out why they hate us so much.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Comments preemptively closed to ward off trolls. Sorry.