N. African Terrorism Surge Indicates Growing Threat for Real Target: Europe

N. African Terrorism Surge Indicates Growing Threat for Real Target: Europe

PARIS -- The April 11 terrorist bombings in Algiers brought international attention to a radical group that seemed on the verge of extinction before becoming an al-Qaida franchise late last year. But a recent spate of attacks in North Africa belies a broader threat, according to some analysts, who say the real focal point of operations is mainland Europe, where a series of deadly plots have already been interrupted.

Responsibility for the twin explosions that killed 33 people was claimed by al-Qaida's Committee in the Islamic Maghreb, which had been known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) until its ideological hardcore took up the banner of Osama bin Laden's global organization last September in an effort to reverse waning influence in the region.

Formed in the late 1990's to overthrow the government and create an Islamist state, the GSPC was behind the 2003 kidnapping of 32 foreigners and a strike on a Mauritanian military outpost two years later that left 15 troops dead. Its attacks primarily targeted Algerian authorities, which have reduced the group's ranks in recent years through aggressive crackdowns inside the country and a general amnesty program that has yielded hundreds of militants, including GSPC founder Hassan Hattab.

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