EU: Terror threat 'developing at our borders'
Monday, April 14, 2008

LONDON — The European Union has warned of an expanding and threatening Al Qaida presence in North Africa.

Officials said the Al Qaida network has extended beyond Algeria into such neighboring countries as Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. They said the new Al Qaida Organization in the Islamic Maghreb was trying to infiltrate Western Europe.

"A real threat is developing at our borders," EU anti-terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove said.

In a briefing to the European Parliament on April 7, de Kerchove said Al Qaida was bolstering its presence in North Africa, Middle East Newsline reported. He cited the February 2008 abduction of two Austrians in Tunisia as well as attacks in Algeria and Morocco.

Hours later, Al Qaida issued a new ultimatum for the release of the Austrians. AQIM demanded the release of two Islamists detained in Austria and the withdrawal of Austrian troops from Afghanistan.

"Al Qaida is continuing and will continue to dominate international terrorism and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, will remain very active as long as he has sanctuary in Afghanistan and Pakistan," de Kerchove said. "But an Islamist terror franchise is developing in parallel, and the illustration of that is the rallying to Al Qaida of groups like the Salifist Group for Preaching and Combat and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group."

Officials said Al Qaida operatives have acquired skills in intelligence, bomb assembly, weapons and communications. They said most of these skills were learned in Iraq where hundreds of North Africans served in Al Qaida units.

"This threat is accentuated by the return to north African countries, and in Europe, of jihadis who have acquired a certain expertise and are seen as heroes, and therefore are a source of attraction [for recruits]," de Kerchove said.


Original article: World Tribune
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