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* Missed messages on Iran  Robert Kagan

* Envoy Condemns US Officials' Irresponsible Comments on Iran  News Report

* 'Israel will be destroyed if it attacks Iran'  News Report

* Warning of long war if Israel attacks Iran  News Report

* Iran unlikely to halt nuclear program, secret letters show  News Report

* Iran denies Ahmadi-Nejad was attacked  News Report

* Sanctions set stage for a new push on Iran  News Report

* اطلاعیۀ آیت الله منتطری دربارۀ حرام بودن مقاومت در برابر رأی مردم  Ali Behrooz

* لیست اسامی با حروف فارسی، تا تاریخ 08/09/08  Ali Behrooz

* War of words, or words of war  Ali Behrooz

* Could Israel use submarines against Iran?  News Report

* Iran deplores UAE claim on 3 islands  News Report

* 'Iran will respond to any attack'  News Report

* Carter to meet Hamas leadership in Cairo  News Report

* No Peace Without Hamas  News Report

* Ahmadinejad again voices Sept. 11 doubts  News Report

* Clinton, Obama tackle Iran issue in debate  News Report

* Bomb kills at least 9 in Iran mosque  News Report

* Iran demands Israel stop force threats  News Report

* Ahmadinejad to dismiss 2 cabinet ministers in Iran  News Report

* Iran: Naval encounter routine check  News Report

* Tony Blair's Palestine  News Report

* Clinton attacks Obama and McCain over Iraq  News Report

* Reza Pahlavi: Leadership for Democracy in Iran  News Report

* Petraeus: Return to 'pre-surge' troop levels, then wait  News Report

* Blast rocks US complex in Sanaa  News Report

* Clashes in Nile Delta after strike aborted  News Report

* When a great power goes mad  News Report

* Iranians defy censor with bootleg DVDs  News Report

* Putin says Iran is no threat  News Report

* Creating a US-Iran Bridge  News Report

* Court removes PKK from terror funds list  News Report

* 12 militants wanted by Israel flee Palestinian jail in West Bank after fight  News Report

* Limiting Tehran’s Influence?  Ali Behrooz

* UAE detains ship as grip on Tehran tightens  News Report

* Iranian critic not guilty of espionage  News Report

* Israelis and Palestinians pledge to reach peace pact by end of 2008  News Report

* Conference in Qom focuses on Iran-US challenges  News Report

* FM spokesman: Iran's plan on Iraq not put for voting  News Report

* Iran's top dissident cleric calls for U.S. talks  News Report

* Islamic militants take fight against Musharraf to 'Pakistan's Switzerland'  News Report

* 'Desperate' Musharraf declares martial law  News Report

* US Sanctions on Iran Leave Europeans in a Quandary  Sir Cyril Townsend

* After Thamilselvan  News Report

* Analysis: Is Abbas playing his cards right ahead of ME summit?  News Report

* Bahrain accuses Iran of nuclear weapons lie  News Report

* Senior Tamil Tiger leader killed  News Report

* US declares PKK 'a common enemy'  News Report

* Iran urged to join Gulf nuclear deal  News Report

* Iran's leaders need enemies like Bush, and at every turn he obliges them  News Report

* Giuliani hits Democrats on Iran  News Report

* Iran: We have no information on Arad  News Report

* Clinton hails US move on Iran  News Report

* Israel to prepare for potential missile attack  News Report

* US First Lady in Kuwait  News Report

* Rice: Mideast solution in jeopardy  News Report

* Kurdish fighters defy the world from mountain fortress as bombing begins  News Report

* Protesters confront Condoleezza Rice as she testifies on Middle East  News Report

* Showdown With Iran  News Report

* U.S. outlines Baghdad security handover plan  News Report

* Poll shows global opposition to Iran - and U.S.  News Report

* Iraq promises Turkey it will curb Kurdish rebels  News Report

* Big shoes to fill  News Report

* LUKOIL says halts Iran oil project on US sanctions  News Report

* Three soldiers killed in Darfur camp attack - UN  News Report

* There's a better - and cheaper - way that Washington can help Lebanon  News Report

* Lebanese patience for Nahr al-Bared displaced wears thin  News Report

* Iran, Syria urge diplomatic means instead of military incursion into Iraq  News Report

* Talabani refuses to deliver PKK leaders to Turkey amid protests against incursion  News Report

* Turkey vows to defeat PKK rebels  News Report

* Iran N-case on Olmert's Paris agenda  News Report

* Motaki (FM): US in No Position to Attack Iran  News Report

* We will fight to the death, Kurdish rebel leader vows from his hideout  News Report

* Deaths And Hostages In Border Clash  News Report

* Flash News: Kurdish separatistand 12 Turkish soldiers killed  News Report

* IRGC Commander:Aggressions to Be Reciprocated with a Rain of Rockets  News Report

* 2 leaders back Blair as European Union president  News Report

* Babacan stresses dialogue as key to solving Lebanese crisis  News Report

* Jordan hopes for positive outcome of Annapolis meeting  News Report

* Iran's nuclear negotiator resigns  News Report

* Larijani Resigns  Ali Behrooz

* NATO says shipment of roadside bombs was 'from Iran'  News Report

* Israel impeding effort to clear cluster bombs  News Report

* Bhutto defiant over bomb attack  News Report

* Democrats' stance on Iran criticized  News Report

* Top Palestinian negotiator may resign  News Report

* UN condemns killing of its truck drivers in Darfur  News Report

* Kurds sign oil deals beyond regional borders – former minister  News Report

* Jerusalem is ours, warns Likud  News Report

* Rice back in Israel after Egypt talks  News Report

* Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane workers in southern Iran go on strike  News Report

* Ahmadinejad: Caspian states to form economic cooperation organization  News Report

* Putin lands in Iran for nuke talks  News Report

* Mideast Conference and the Illusive Peace  News Report

* Coalition of the Reluctant  News Report

* World bank neglects African farming, study says  News Report

* Putin dismisses threat of assassination in Iran  News Report

* Israel signals readiness to cede parts of Jerusalem to Palestinians  News Report

* Christiane Amanpour: 'People think I relax with a Kalashnikov - I don't'  News Report

* After honeymoon, Sarkozy method poses three risks  News Report


Has North Africa become an al-Qaida haven?
[ News Report]  [2007-04-17 11:00:05]
[Source: msnbc 14 April 07]


Deadly attacks in Algeria may confirm U.S. military officials worst fears
By Andy Eckardt
Producer
NBC News
Updated: 10:52 p.m. ET April 14, 2007

MAINZ, Germany — Al-Qaida’s claim of responsibility for the series of deadly attacks in Algeria on Wednesday that killed at least 23 people and wounded 160 may have confirmed U.S. military officials’ worst fears that the terrorist organization is using North Africa as a staging ground for training and attacks.

The series of bomb attacks, which heavily damaged the prime minister’s office and a police station, as well as a wave of car bombings in February that killed at least six and injured 13, have been attributed to a group called al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb. 

U.S. intelligence officials also believe that a plot foiled Tuesday in Casablanca by Moroccan officials was part of a plan to carry out multiple, simultaneous attacks in the two countries. 

Officials there learned of the Moroccan angle and raided an alleged bomb-making factory. Three militants then blew themselves up in the streets of Casablanca, causing the death of a policeman and injuries to a small child. Al-Qaida took responsibility for both attacks.

U.S. military officials at the European Command, EUCOM, in Germany — which handles military activities in northern Africa — have been focusing on the al-Qaida-linked group. In particular, U.S. military officials fear that the group is using the northern part of Mali as a training ground for terrorists.

North African training ground
With a population of 12 million, Mali is a small West African nation made up of largely rough terrain — the desert area north of the legendary city of Timbuktu is more or less what one senior EUCOM official called “ungoverned space” that has traditionally been occupied by Touareg nomads.

For centuries, Touareg nomads have been the principle occupants of the northern deserts of Mali and Niger, driving their camel caravans along the trading routes of the Maghreb, a region in northwest Africa. Today, the camels are gradually being replaced by four-wheel-drive vehicles and there is evidence that terrorists are using the routes for their own weapon supplies.

In addition, according to officials, the radical Islamists are using the country as a base for training foreign fighters.

"At mobile training camps recruits are receiving small-arms training, learn how to build and use improvised explosive devices, and they are highly indoctrinated by their trainers," said one EUCOM official familiar with the region.

The group is believed to have approximately 100 hard-core fighters in north-eastern Algeria and the same amount of combatants in northern Mali, where successful Algerian security operations had pushed the group in recent years.

"The extremists are equipped with AK-47s and small-arms weapons, as they continue to stage attacks on Algerian interests in order to prove that they are still a threat and can keep their ranks in line," said a senior EUCOM official.

Exporting terrorists
Intelligence officials say that fighters being trained in the region are also being sent to Iraq, and possibly elsewhere.

For officials it has been extremely difficult to identify the origin and nationality of suicide bombers and insurgents in Iraq. Estimates and actual numbers are mostly based on sophisticated forensic research after attacks.

But, based on this knowledge, senior military officials in Europe believe that approximately 20 percent of all fighters in Iraq have come from northern Africa.

"We have been seeing a significant flow of fighters, mostly recruits from the African Maghreb region and Egypt," a senior EUCOM official said. 

The officials say that African extremists often use Damascus, Syria, as a hub to get into Iraq, knowing that lax entry regulations, with no visa requirements, make their journey easy.

U.S. intelligence officials also say that the Maghreb militants are using Khartoum, Sudan, as a transit point to get to Damascus and ultimately Iraq. With Egyptian and Jordanian authorities on the lookout for young men headed for jihad in Iraq, the militants are now transiting through Khartoum. 

The recent bombings have raised fears among European officials that these al-Qaida-trained terrorists may start waging attacks on their shores as well. The French presidential candidate and former Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his fears about more terrorists finding their way from North Africa to France in an interview with radio station Europe 1 on Thursday.

"The principal menace to France comes from Algeria, from the GSPC network that has transformed into al-Qaida,'' said Sarkozy, referring to al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb. "They have members in several European countries, including France.''

Military initiative
To counter these developments, U.S. military officials launched the Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative in January 2005. Its operations focus on small-scale diplomatic and military engagement in northern Africa.

"Unconventional warfare is much more powerful and appropriate [than traditional military methods] as we deal with terrorism and extremism today," said Navy Rear Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of Special Operations Command Europe, at a recent conference in Germany.

The idea is to initiate and maintain counter-terrorism cooperation and exchange among the nine Saharan-African nations — including Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali and Chad.

"These countries grapple with problems that contribute to terrorism," said McRaven. "Such problems include unstable governments, conflicts, refugees, pandemic diseases, human trafficking and high population growth."

For the past two years, the U.S. military has been focusing on development and security in the region, predominantly training and equipping security forces in the northern African nations.

In particular, civil-military support elements regularly visit remote villages to start infrastructure projects, and teams of Marines proficient in local languages have been training host nation personnel so that available resources, such as oil, can be used most appropriately.

The ultimate goal is to create sustainable relationships that will build regional cooperation without requiring permanent a U.S. military presence.

"We don't want northern Africa to become another Afghanistan," said one senior counter-terrorism official from EUCOM.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional hearing on defense spending in  February that the Pentagon will be setting up a new Africa Command “to oversee security, cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to nonmilitary missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent.”

Reflecting the new priorities, the Defense to Department hopes to have the Africa Command in place by September 2008.





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