Senior Cambodian officials said Monday that they are not worried by statements by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden broadcast on Sunday, in which the world’s most wanted man called for a new holy war against UN peacekeepers in Sudan.
On April 15, a contingent of 135 Cambodian demining personnel left for Sudan as part of a UN peacekeeping force.
On Sunday, the Al Jazeera news channel broadcast a new tape, which experts believe originated with the al-Qaida leader, calling on his followers to focus their attacks on UN personnel in the Sudan, where bin Laden sought refuge in the 1990s.
“I call on the mujahideen and their supporters in Sudan…and the [Arabian] Peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the crusaders in western Sudan,” the voice on the tape said, referring to UN peacekeepers.
Cambodian Minister of Defense Tea Banh said that he was not concerned that bin Laden’s appeal would prompt attacks on the RCAF contingent in Sudan.
“Cambodian troops don’t cause any headaches to the terrorists,” Tea Banh said. “We are not the terrorists’ target because Cambodian troops go to Sudan for humanitarian purposes.”
Mine Action Authority Deputy Secretary-General Leng Sochea said Cambodian deminers are adequately armed to deal with threats and have the right to shoot in self-defense.
“We realized in advance that it is dangerous work, we have to be very vigilant,” he said, adding that troops are equipped with an assortment of battlefield weapons and travel in armored personnel carriers.
He added that Cambodians do not have any conflict with Islam.
“We are Buddhists, we don’t have any conflicts with Muslims,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that any attack by bin Laden on Cambodian troops would only further isolate the al-Qaida terrorist organization internationally.
(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)