"Arc of radical Islamism" in north Africa

14th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 14, 2007 (AFP) - Extremist groups in north Africa are being merged into an "arc of radical Islamism" under the leadership of the main Algerian Islamist organisation, France's top anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said Wednesday.

PARIS, March 14, 2007 (AFP) - Extremist groups in north Africa are being merged into an "arc of radical Islamism" under the leadership of the main Algerian Islamist organisation, France's top anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere said Wednesday.

In an interview with AFP, Bruguiere recalled that the Algerian Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) recently changed its name -- under orders, it said, from Osama bin Laden -- to the Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Lands of Islamic North Africa.

"What does that name mean? It emphasises allegiance to Al-Qaeda and shows a clear desire to regionalise the organisation. It is unprecedented," Bruguiere said.

"This is our major cause for concern because it is clear there is a direct threat to France. France is the priority target. We need to adapt, as we have in the past, to this new type of threat.

"All the ingredients are there. The ex-GSPC wants to incorporate all the radical movements in north Africa -- the Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian Islamic Combat Groups (GIC). There is an Islamist arc, which also has plans for the south -- the Sahel," he said.

Bruguiere said Sunday's suicide bombing in Casablanca, which left three people wounded, "was an operation that should have taken place somewhere else. It is the visible element in a situation that is much more serious, which does not just concern Morocco."

"Operationally we know that since the start of 2004 there have been links between these different movements, men moving from one country to another. All of it is being piloted by the ex-GSPC," the judge said.

Bruguiere, 63, who has led investigations into terrorism cases since 1982, is widely expected to retire this year and run for the National Assembly as a member of the ruling centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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