Inside the Ring: Warhead cuts coming

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Said a second U.S. official: “The increase of the AQIM threat can be traced back to the group’s taking advantage of an extremist safe haven in northern Mali in 2012. How AQIM responds to pressure from the French-led campaign in Mali will help set the parameters for its next evolution.

“The area in which AQIM operates extends across the borders of several resource-constrained countries,” the official said. “So naturally, it will take a coordinated, multinational counterterrorism effort to combat AQIM.”

The Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was the work of al Qaeda-linked militants called Ansar al Shariah, which is being used as a cover name for al Qaeda groups.

Recent U.S. government monitoring of jihadist websites also reveals that terrorist groups are shifting their focus to Africa.

The State Department on Tuesday updated its worldwide caution to all Americans overseas to be on alert for terrorist attacks, including in Africa.

“Current information suggests that al Qaeda, its affiliated organizations, and other terrorist organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” the advisory said. “These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics, including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.”

On Africa, the warning said a number of al Qaeda operatives and extremists are operating in and around the continent, noting in particular the recent alliance between al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri and the leader of the Somalia-based al-Shabab.

AQIM “has declared its intention to attack Western targets throughout the Sahel, an area that stretches across the African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea to include Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan and Eritrea,” the notice said.

The group has conducted kidnappings and killings of several Westerners in the region, including southern Algeria. “AQIM and related extremist groups have threatened to attack and kidnap Westerners in Mali and the region in response to the U.S.-supported French intervention in northern and central Mali, where the political conditions remain fluid, and the Malian government has yet to reassert control over its northern provinces.”

The terrorist attack last month at the natural-gas plant in Amenas, Algeria, was thought to be linked to al Qaeda. It resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, including three Americans.

KIM’S SMARTPHONE

U.S. electronic intelligence-gathering agencies were energized last month following the disclosure by the official North Korean KCNA news agency for the first time that supreme leader Kim Jong-un is using a smartphone.

The device appeared in a photograph of Mr. Kim near his right hand during a meeting of officials, and U.S. officials identified it as a Taiwan-made HTC model smartphone.

The smartphone is now expected to become a major target of the worldwide eavesdropping capabilities of several countries interested in getting intelligence from the new communist leader, who probably ordered the country’s third underground nuclear test last week.

Those countries include the United States, China, Japan and Russia — all of whom have sophisticated or growing cellphone spying capabilities.

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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