Al-Qaida operatives bound by ideas, and very likely little else in terror wave |

Al-Qaida operatives bound by ideas, and very likely little else in terror wave

LONDON – Car bombs at an Egyptian luxury hotel. Explosions in London subways. Suicide blasts in Baghdad.With the frequency of terror attacks apparently mounting, experts searching for common threads behind the attacks suggest that the war on terror is being waged against an ever-increasing well of recruits, bound together by motives and cause – rather than a single al-Qaida mastermind.With havens in Afghanistan under pressure and their finances under scrutiny, militants may take philosophical guidance from the likes of Osama bin Laden but are largely relying on their own resources in carrying out operations, experts interviewed by The Associated Press said Saturday.”They all want to be part of this phenomenon,” said Loretta Napoleoni, author of “Terror Incorporated: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks,” as she explained the terror wave. “It’s not like someone is telling (the militants), ‘You bomb on the first of July.”‘Anger over the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict also seems to be providing some inspiration, despite early arguments from Bush administration officials that fighting insurgents in Iraq would help prevent them from launching attacks on Western targets. The war has instead turned into a recruiting tool, experts said.The constant images on Arab language networks of dead and dying civilians – coupled with U.S. soldiers conducting operations – has only heightened sensitivities.”Iraq has been an absolute gift to al-Qaida,” said Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at Bradford University in northern England. “(Al-Qaida) seems to have no difficulty in getting more and more recruits.”The attack Saturday in Egypt came only two days after four bombs partially detonated on three subway trains and a bus, causing no deaths but spreading panic two weeks after four suicide bombers hit similar targets, killing 52 people.Magnus Ranstorp, a terror expert at St. Andrews University in Scotland, said few definitive links between the attacks in London and Egypt were likely.However, the attackers may have taken note of the London attacks and opted to accelerate their plans – hoping to make people even more afraid and the terror more widespread.”It’s more about the timing – to overwhelm the West,” Ranstorp said, adding the idea may have been to “overstretch the enemy.”He also said al-Qaida itself has been long been divided into two camps – one that favors targets on secular regimes in the Middle East and another favoring targets among the “crusaders” of the West.What’s more, no Arabs have been blamed in the London attacks. Three Britons of Pakistani descent and a Briton of Jamaican descent were identified as the suspected suicide bombers in what has been seen as a “homegrown” operation.The Red Sea resort city was believed to be one of the safest places in the country – a factor that would have made it harder to carry out any attack without surveillance, expertise and planning. The complication involved suggests the attacks were planned long ago.”For an attack of this size and nature to happen in such a regionally important center destroys the image of its tight security and sends a clear message to authorities that they can be hit anywhere,” said Dia’a Rashwan, an Egyptian terrorism expert. “We can’t blame a small, amateurish group for this.”A strange twist in the Egyptian bombing investigation suggested that while all the attacks might not be related, some of them might be.A new video by al-Qaida in Iraq showing an Egyptian envoy – who was kidnapped and later reportedly killed by the group – indicated a possible reason the Sinai town could have been targeted, saying Egypt lets Israelis “desecrate” the peninsula by giving them easy access.The tape, which was not dated, shows Egyptian envoy Ihab al-Sherif answering questions about access by foreigners to tourist areas near Sharm el-Sheik. It does not mention Saturday’s attacks in Egypt, but its release on the day of the bombings was noteworthy.The spate of attacks in London and Egypt also could be seen as an attempt to demonstrate al-Qaida’s prowess in the face of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, said Mustafa Alani, a security analyst at Dubai-based think-tank, the Gulf Research Center.”They’re saying this war is not winnable,” Alani said. “If you look at the map of al-Qaida operations, they stretch from London to Bali to Istanbul to Mombasa to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.”The devastating blasts are likely meant as revenge for Western involvement in Iraq, Alani said, adding the message to Westerners is that “you are not safe anywhere as long as your government is involved in this unjust war.”In the longer term, the attackers seek to physically isolate Muslims and the West, Alani said. Some isolation will occur if the terrorists keep up their assaults.”Americans will not go to the Middle East anymore. Europeans will find different destinations,” he said. “And Middle Easterners will be very careful in going to the West.”Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who chairs the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference, told reporters the fresh attacks only underline the need to study the root causes of violence.”The whole world is getting very disturbed. The frequency (of terrorist attacks) seems to be mounting,” he said. “You just cannot tell these people (the terrorists) to stop.”

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