Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Judge: The terrorist threat in France and North Africa is very high due to the Iraq war


The terrorist threat in Europe, especially in France and the Maghreb region of North Africa is "very high," French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said Thursday.

"This is essentially because of the Iraq problem, which had fed networks (of terrorist cells) implanted in France," Bruguiere told a press conference, citing Spain and Italy as also at risk.

He dubbed as a "new element" the strengthening of Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, which having allied itself to Al-Qaeda in September last year has since renamed itself Al-Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb.

"It is the first time in the history of Al-Qaeda that it has a specific regional branch," said Bruguiere, 56, who is head of the Paris law courts' anti-terrorism section.

He insisted the Salafist group "has the capacity to recruit right across the Maghreb, including in Tunisia and Libya" and comprises a "double threat."

Bruguiere explained: "It wants to get the Maghreb to implode, especially Algeria, where it has already carried out attacks, but also Morocco, which will soon hold elections, and Tunisia, and furthermore wants to export violence to Europe."

The magistrate said he had also identified a clear risk from radical Muslims recruited in Europe and the Maghreb to use Iraq as a training ground.

"We are up against a new generation. These are Islamists from Europe and the Maghreb ... sent to Iraq to fight but also to train and commit attacks in Europe," Bruguiere said, noting similar scenarios going back to Afghanistan, Chechnya and Bosnia.

Bruguiere was in Spain to receive the Dialogo Prize for Franco-Spanish cooperation from Carlos Divar, chairman of Spain's high court, which deals with terror cases in Spain.

Al-Qaeda ahad been stepping up activities in the Maghreb recently, claiming responsibility for two April 11 carbombings in Algiers which left 30 dead and injured more than 200.

In Morocco, six suicide bombers blew themselves up in Casablanca in attacks on March 11 and April 10 and 14 while police caught a seventh bomber before he could set off his explosives.

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