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(LEAD) Taliban warns S. Korea over troop deployment plan

All Headlines 21:09 December 09, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korean gov't report on terrorism in last four paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 9 (Yonhap) -- Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have warned South Korea against its plan to send troops to the war-torn country, saying Seoul must prepare for "bad consequences" if the troops are deployed as scheduled, according to wire reports Wednesday.

South Korea announced on Tuesday a plan to deploy up to 350 troops to Afghanistan for two-and-a-half years to assist U.S.-led efforts to fight insurgency and rebuild the Central Asian country.

The deployment, subject to parliamentary approval, will begin in Parwan Province north of Kabul on July 1 next year and include helicopters, armored vehicles and a reconnaissance drone.

"On one hand this act is against the Afghanistan independence. On the other hand, it will break their promise they made in 2007 in return to the freedom of 19 of their citizens," Taliban said in a statement allegedly e-mailed to international media.

South Korea withdrew more than 200 military medics and engineers from Afghanistan in 2007 after Seoul negotiated with Taliban insurgents to secure the release of 23 South Korean Christian missionaries, two of whom were killed.

Officials in Seoul have since insisted that the South Korean government did not offer to refrain from redeploying troops to Afghanistan when it engaged in negotiations with Taliban in 2007.

The Taliban's statement was also quoted as saying, "Now that South Korea wants to break its promise and step on Afghans' independence just to make its American allies happy, we think it will be immoral and a big blow to their government credibility."

"They should also be prepared for any bad consequences," it reportedly said, adding that the Taliban "will never resort to a soft approach anymore."

The reports of Taliban's tough-worded statement coincided with the South Korean government's issuance of a study warning about the possibility of terrorist attacks by anti-American groups on South Korean soil in the wake of its latest decision to send troops to Afghanistan.

The study, prepared by Prof. Je Seong-ho of Chung-ang University at the request of the Seoul government, said that South Korea is no longer safe from terrorism, calling for efforts to enact an anti-terrorist law.

"Incheon International Airport is emerging as a hub in Northeast Asia, and the number of foreigners in South Korea is rapidly increasing, heightening the possibility of terrorist attacks in the process of their entry and departure," said the study.

"A large number of Islamic immigrant workers staying here should also not be overlooked. Therefore, the enactment of an anti-terror law should not be delayed any longer," it said.

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