On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The world can do with less killing

Sept 11 will long be remembered as the day when the terrorists pierced the
heart of America's financial and security hub, but many will have forgotten
that on Sept 8 two years ago a Moscow apartment was bombed, killing some 300

As the US mourned the tragedy, ordinary Russians gathered
at a courtyard in southern Moscow for a similar memorial. A chapel now marks
the spot where the nine-storey brick building once stood.

The blast, which hit at 5am, reduced the building to a smoky heap of rubble and
killed 124 people, including 13 children. The attack was the worst in a series
of explosions in Russia.

There was the initial outrage but the Americans could well take a leaf from the
Moscow incident – two years later, investigators have made little

Law enforcement officials have been saying that they know the identities of the
bombers but have been unable to catch them. Topping the wanted list of terrorists
is Achemez Gochiyayev, 31, who is accused of masterminding the blast.

According to the Federal Security Service, Gochiyayev is a native of
Karachayevo-Cherkessia and a staunch Wahabbi, the follower of a strict Islamic

He was trained in camps set up in Chechnya by Jordanian-born warlord Khattab,
who allegedly ordered the blasts and paid Gochiyayev and four accomplices, who
are believed to be hiding in Chechnya.

Gochiyayev's brother-in-law, Taukan Frantsuzov, is on trial in the southern
city of Stavropol for participating in ''illegal armed formations'' in

Over in Munich, German mourners also remember September as a black month. In
the early hours of Sept 5, 1972, terrorists scaled the perimeter fence
surrounding the Olympic Village.

Their target was the temporary home of the Israeli Olympic team and, within 24
hours, the terrorists had left 17 men dead. The eight attackers responsible for
the massacre were members of Black September, an extremist faction of the
Palestinian Liberation Front.

The execution had been well planned. Two of the assailants had worked in the
Olympic Village to familiarise themselves with its layout.

One had lived in Germany for five years and attended university in Berlin and
had worked at the village as a civil engineer.

As in all three incidents, the affected countries reacted angrily, victims
wanted revenge while the perpetrators claimed it was an act of war, in the name
of God, and claimed they understood the pain and sorrow of those who lost their
loved ones.

As US President George W. Bush whips up the hysteria of war, it might be wise
for him to steady his nerves and steer the same course.

He cannot afford to make the US look weak; neither does he want to see young
Americans returning from Afghanistan in body bags.

While Osama bin Laden has remained the prime suspect, no one is sure that he is
responsible for the US attacks. The US, which talks about upholding the law,
cannot act on suspicion. Bush has given the impression of wanting to squeeze
the trigger without knowing who he is pointing the gun at.

Air strikes and missile attacks over the mountainous deserts of Afghanistan
will serve no purpose. Assuming Osama is still hiding out in some cave, he will
be safe. If he has already fled Afghanistan, then the whole exercise is a

If air attacks are made, innocent Afghans, including those who hate the
Taliban, will be killed. State terrorism will be no different from those
committed by zealots.

If the option of ground attacks is chosen, American troops should look at
history first – with the exception of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan,
Afghanistan has long been the graveyard of those who try to conquer the land.
Then, there is the danger that a conflict launched in Afghanistan could spill
over into Pakistan.

As the US decides on its military options, it must rethink its Middle East
policy, which has bred much contempt and hatred against the Americans.

Even if the US succeeds in arresting Osama, there will be more of such

It is important that the US engage moderate Islamic countries, particularly
those in the Middle East and South-East Asia, in its long-term strategies in
these two regions. It is also an opportunity for the US to stop its unilateral
actions and erase the stigma of being the ''policeman of the world.''

It is best that the volume of the war drum be reduced. The world can do with
less killing in the name of politics, diplomacy or religion. There can be no
justification for the loss of innocent lives.