Thursday, 13 December 2007
fox news interview
AMY KELLOGG, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Familiar scenes in an unfamiliar setting. Al Qaeda operatives training in the mountains of North Africa, a region known as the Maghreb, that has seen its share of political turmoil, but largely avoided the excesses of the global jihadist movement, until now.
CAMILLE TAWIL, ALGERIAN TERRORISM EXPERT: This al Qaeda is able to attack Western interests, especially American interests anywhere whether that's in North Africa itself or in Europe or any other place. They will not hesitate to do so.
KELLOGG: Al Qaeda's North African branch is centered in Algeria, 45 minutes from Europe by plane. Some fear there may now be a southern front in a war that has largely pitted east against west.
MAHMOUD BELHIMER, ALGERIAN JOURNALIST: They are looking for the propaganda.
KELLOGG: Mahmoud Belhimer says the group knows that if it attacks foreigners, that will make headlines around the world. So far, attacks by al Qaeda in North Africa have been in Algeria on both western and government targets. But the group has been active and has brought violent jihad in Algeria, something this country has dealt with since the `90s, to a new level with the advent of suicide bombings.
The high unemployment here is no doubt a contributor to the terrorism phenomena. But experts aren't altogether sure how much Algerian terrorism has to do with frustration here at home and how much of it is about anger at events abroad.
ROBERT FORD, US AMBASSADOR TO ALGERIA: The recruitment efforts are aimed heavily at young Algerian men. They are specifically targeting young men who feel resentment at the lack of economic opportunity and who also respond to a sort of anti-American sentiment. They often tie in, for example, the Iraq war.
KELLOGG: That's why the U.S. ambassador to Algeria spends much of his time trying to explain to people in the region why the U.S. is trying to bring democracy to Iraq.
And the U.S. is also looking at ways to help Algeria shore up its economy. This young man hanging around the market says his dream job is any job at all.
This woman explains that the hopelessness associated with the economic situation leaves young people vulnerable.
The government has been hunting jihadists down in their mountainous hideouts, but the problem is there are still some no-go zones in very porous borders. Al Qaeda in the Maghreb is being monitored closely by Algerian, European and U.S. security forces who are increasingly fine tuning their methods of international cooperation to combat what has the potential of being a dangerous new front in the war on terror. In Algiers, Amy Kellogg, FOX News.