- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Algeria has warned its North African neighbors that al Qaeda terrorists are planning “spectacular attacks” to destabilize local governments and strike at industrial installations.

The warning followed last week’s attacks by the Algerian army on three hideouts east of Algiers during which 10 suspected terrorists were killed. The army identified them as members of the al Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, which is allied with Osama Bin Laden’s international network.

According to the French Institute for International Relations in Paris, Tunisia is one of the main targets because of its friendly relations with the United States and its successful antiterrorist activities. There was also concern about the security of Algerian oil installations in the Sahara.

The last significant terrorist attacks in North Africa took place in Morocco and Algeria. Thirty-seven people died in December when terrorists struck at a building housing U.N. offices in Algiers.

In various messages, some on the Internet, al Qaeda has warned of the “approaching punishment” for Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, “whose regime obeys orders of the West and combats the Islamic veil.” Tunisia has banned women’s head scarves in public buildings, considering them to be a political statement.

Tunisia last fall called on its neighbors to pool their antiterrorism resources.

Then, at a conference on terrorism, Mr. Ben Ali said, “Tunisia was among the first to have warned against the pernicious consequences of this phenomenon and stressed the need for intensifying cooperation to guard against it and eradicate it.”

One Tunisian measure was the establishment of military bases on parts of its border with Algeria to prevent the infiltration of Islamic militants from Algerian bases. Other measures include strict control of mosques and of religious texts that might urge “holy war.”

French experts on North Africa believe the area is being targeted because Islamic terrorism in Europe has been considerably curtailed in recent months. At the same time, the number of volunteers for al Qaeda is reported to be growing.

According to Khadija Mohsen Finan, a lecturer at the French Institute for Political Studies, “the growth of recruitment of those willing to die for the holy war is most terrifying.”

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