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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Al-Qaeda “On the March,” Expert Says

The terrorist organization al-Qaeda has survived five years of international efforts to wipe it out, and is reorganizing itself to conduct further strikes, a U.S. counterterrorism expert said yesterday (see GSN, Sept. 21).

Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman dismissed what he called “politicized intelligence” suggesting that al-Qaeda had been seriously weakened since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, The Ottawa Citizen reported.

“Just as we underestimated al-Qaeda before 9/11, we risk repeating the same mistake now. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, al-Qaeda is on the march,” he said during a speech at the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies conference in Ottawa.

“We see a vigorous and unbowed organization” which is able to exploit cracks in western security and is using the war in Iraq for its own ends, Hoffman said.

A recent string of plots and terrorist attacks illustrate the threat, he said. These include the July 2005 bombings of the London transit system by al-Qaeda-trained operatives and a unsuccessful 2004 plot by an al-Qaeda cell against a number of U.S. sites (see GSN, Oct. 13).

This year’s foiled effort to destroy up to 10 passenger airplanes, another seeming al-Qaeda plot, indicates that terrorists are still willing to strike against a transportation sector that has undergone significant security increases over the last five years (see GSN, Aug. 11).

“This alarming development calls into question some of our most fundamental assumptions about terrorist targeting, tactics and capabilities today,” Hoffman said. “We’re just as vulnerable as ever. Not only because of Iraq, but because of a revitalized al-Qaeda that continues to plot and plan terrorist attacks as it has done since 9/11” (Ian MacLeod, The Ottawa Citizen, Oct. 27).

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service counterterrorism branch views “Al-Qaeda-inspired or -related” extremists as the primary terrorism threat facing the nation, The Globe and Mail reported today.

The service monitored 274 individuals and 31 organizations in its 2005-2006 operational year, according to a new government report. It identified “several previously unknown domestic extremists” who potentially were a terror threat and blocked one extremist from entering the country, the report states.

The agency “disrupted a Canadian-based terrorist cell.” Canadian authorities in June arrested 18 people and seized 3 tons of ammonium nitrate that could have been used in bombs (see GSN, June 12; Jeff Sallot, The Globe and Mail, Oct. 27).

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