Libyans expose Qaeda camp
PARIS: Libyan secret services have found a desert operations camp belonging to an al Qaeda-linked group called the GSPC after “intercepting” members of the group near the border with Chad, a French newspaper said on Sunday.
The paper, Le Journal du Dimanche, said that a source close to the counter-espionage services of a European country told it of the discovery by Libyan agents 10 days ago in the mountainous region of Tibesti that spans Libya’s southern border with Chad.
Libya, which is regarded to be seeking reconciliation with Western states, restored diplomatic ties with Washington last week after 24 years of enmity, after promising to scrap the north African country’s weapons of mass destruction programmes.
The French newspaper said that the GSPC - the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat - was recruiting actively in the Tibesti region and buying arms and vehicles with German ransom money paid for the release of tourists in the Sahara in 2003.
The GSPC, whose acronym is based on the French spelling of its name, is a militant group founded in 1998 in Algeria which is now regarded to have eclipsed the renowned Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in Algeria.
It offered its support in October 2003 to Islamic extremist Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Le Journal du Dimanche drew a link between the camp that the Libyans had discovered and renewed talk of possible attacks on European and U.S. embassies or similar targets in Africa.
“Above all, it appears that the GSPC is clearly preparing terrorist attacks in Africa, on American or European targets — including French ones — be they economic, diplomatic or tourist sites,” the newspaper said.
Bin Laden, in an audiotape on April 15, gave European states three months to pull troops out of Afghanistan, Iraq and other Muslim countries or face attacks such as the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people on March 11.
Muslim militants claiming links to Al Qaeda have vowed attacks on Europe once the “truce” expires on July 15, several newspapers said last Friday.
Governments and analysts played down the threat, although a US intelligence official has said the risk should not be ignored or dismissed, regardless of the authenticity of the purported statement by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.
Excerpts of the Abu Hafs statement were published by two London-based Arabic newspapers, Asharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat. Al-Hayat said the letter arrived by e-mail dated July 1. It is not clear how close the Abu Hafs group is to Bin Laden himself. reuters