India warns that Al-Qaida targeting Goa

Beach resort popular among Israeli backpackers; expert: Israelis should take warning seriously.

sinai huts beach 224 88  (photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
sinai huts beach 224 88
(photo credit: Elana Kirsh)
The Indian beach resort of Goa, a major destination for Israeli backpackers and holidaymakers, is at risk of being struck by al-Qaida, a local politician warned over the weekend. "Today, Goa faces serious threat from terrorists and there were specific inputs that al-Qaida would target certain [tourist] installations in Goa. Goa has a coastline of 105 km., major sea ports and beaches," the state's chief secretary, J.P. Singh, wrote in a memo, according to the Indian Express website. The warning comes after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in which 188 people were killed, including six Israelis who were slain in the city's Chabad House. "This is the first time that the Goa government has admitted that the state was on the al-Qaida radar," the report said, adding that Goa's state government had until now denied the existence of a major terrorist threat. The memo called for increased security in the region. Dr. Ely Karmon, an expert on Islamist movements and terrorist organizations, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Israelis should reconsider traveling to Goa in light of the alert. Karmon, from the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's Institute for Counter-Terrorism, added that other parts of India that were less prone to terrorism were still relatively safe. "Goa is where Jews and Israelis gather... These places, and other villages are known as hot spots for Israelis, and therefore al-Qaida would have no problem finding Israelis if it is looking for them," he said. "I still think the terrorist threat in Sinai is more dangerous than in Goa, but this alert from the authorities has to be taken into serious consideration." "Israelis might have to give up on Goa, but not on all of India. Some places are more high profile than others," he said. On November 27, during the Mumbai attacks, Col. Behram A. Sahukar, who has extensive experience in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism in the Indian subcontinent, told the Post that Goa would be a prime target for al-Qaida if terrorists sought to target Israelis. "If they wanted to hit Israelis they would hit Goa or Manali [northeast of Dehli]," Sahukar said. In 2006, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory against visiting Goa.