HK cops warn of lone-wolf attacks by ISIS-inspired militants
Anti-terror cops on alert for ISIS-inspired extremists in Hong Kong
HONG KONG: Police have warned that extremists inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may be in the city planning lone-wolf attacks.
On Wednesday, the police said the danger from militants is real, despite there being no specific intelligence indicating an imminent attack or Hong Kong being targeted, said a report in the South China Morning Post.
The threat level remains at moderate, but anti-terror police in the city are on alert, said the newspaper.
The warning came as security experts urged the authorities to raise public awareness about the threat of global terrorism, so as to recruit more "eyes and ears" across the city.
Superintendent Leung Wing-sheung from the police operations wing said terrorist groups such as ISIS have taken full advantage of the Internet and social media to spread their radical ideology, putting the city in a vulnerable position.
"Hong Kong is an advanced information city in which people can access promotional materials related to terrorism on the Internet easily," Ms Leung said, adding that anyone can be a potential extremist, and that it is not limited by nationality.
"The city also has an enormous international passenger throughput, which provides advantages for foreign fighters to enter and hole up here."
She said Hong Kong could be a potential target because it is a high-profile home to many global institutions and representatives, but she did not go into details about the possibility of militants already in the city.
Last year, the United Nations (UN) estimated that about 30,000 foreign terrorist fighters, coming from more than 100 member states, were actively engaged in the activities of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and associated groups.
Citing recent deadly attacks in London, Berlin and Nice as examples, the Hong Kong police said lone-wolf attacks using pressure cookers and vehicles had become relatively common.
This made detection work particularly difficult, as those involved often did not have previous links with terrorist groups.
"Unlike the 9/11 attack, which involved a large number of terrorists, materials and financial support, lone wolves act without many plans and associations," Ms Leung said.
"You can easily get a truck or a knife anywhere, which makes prevention relatively difficult."
The Hong Kong police vowed to maintain close contact and intelligence exchanges with their counterparts overseas.
They are also said to be watching out for suspicious individuals and organisations listed by the UN Security Council.
Security consultant and former police superintendent Clement Lai Ka-chi, who helped form the elite Counter Terrorism Response Unit during his time on the force, told the South China Morning Post that public education and community links are crucial, as prevention is key to counterterrorism.
"It is impossible to have officers patrolling every corner, and people should be alerted to report any suspicious person to the police. It causes no harm to the force but helps reduce the risk of lone wolves," he said.
"The force is afraid of speaking about terrorism openly as it might cause alarm. How many citizens would study the Security Bureau website to learn what to do in terrorist situations?"