Experts Say Al Qaeda Threat Remains

The threat posed by Al Qaeda remains strong, experts say, because as well as planning attacks, Osama bin Laden’s organisation is inspiring others.

US President Barack Obama warned on Tuesday that fresh attacks against the United States are currently in preparation, as he announced a massive troop surge in Afghanistan.

Whether they are in direct contact with Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas or have been radicalised by the internet, hundreds of Islamists are ready to act in Bin Laden’s name, experts warn.

Jean-Pierre Filiu, of Paris’s Sciences Po University, said the danger posed by the Al Qaeda hierarchy – what is known as Al Qaeda Central – still posed a very real danger.

“This is particularly so because Al Qaeda – threatened, cornered, breathless – has a cruel need to pull off a major attack,” he said.

“Paradoxically, an organi-sation which is losing momentum is more dangerous than one that is cruising.”

Marc Sageman, a former CIA agent in Afghanistan and now a psychiatrist and expert on jihadi networks, recently said he had found evidence of 33 radical Islamist plots against the West in the last five years.

Six of these could be attributed to Al Qaeda Central and two to affiliated groups, he said.

The remaining 25, Sageman said, were autonomous plots conducted by “homegrown perpetrators” with no connection with formal international groups, but were nevertheless inspired by Al Qaeda.

“From its sanctuary in Pakistan’s tribal areas, (Al Qaeda) retains a considerable ability to do harm,” Filiu said.

“This has been shown by more or less successful terrorist plots in various countries which can be linked in some way back to these (tribal) areas.

“There might only be a hundred or so Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, but the heart of the organisation is now beating in the Pakistani tribal areas. This is where the inspiration, the energy and the impetus for the terrorist movement is coming from,” Filiu said.

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