German Intelligence Chief: African Al Qaeda a Threat to Europe | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.10.2008

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German Intelligence Chief: African Al Qaeda a Threat to Europe

A North African terrorist ring with deep connections to al Qaeda could pose a threat to Western Europe, the head of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND) said.

Fire fighters struggle to extinguish a blaze caused by a car bomb in Algeria

Al Qaeda in North Africa has been responsible for numerous bombings in Algeria

Ernst Uhrlau said al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa was attempting to expand its sphere of influence beyond its established power base in Algeria.

Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, which is also known as the Al Qaeda Organization in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, claimed responsibility for attacks last December in Algiers, targeting the UN headquarters there and the Algerian Constitutional Court. The bombings killed at least 70 people.

The terror group has also been at the heart of a string of attacks this year, including a strike east of Algiers on Sept. 28 which killed three people and wounded six others.

But Uhrlau said similar incursions in the future may not necessarily be contained to within North Africa.

Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa "is not just in close geographic proximity to Europe," he said at a Berlin security conference. "It is also presently the al Qaeda franchise that is developing the most dynamically."

Uhrlau said there was a "high" chance the group could seek to expand its operations into Europe.

The BND president also warned the Internet was becoming a "vehicle for preparations" for aspirant terrorists seeking to organize future attacks.

Born of the civil war

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden

The Algerian militant group aligned itself with al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2007

Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa was formed out of a militant faction -- the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat -- which had been left over from the Algerian civil war in the 1990s.

The group assumed its current identity after aligning itself with Osama Bin Laden's international network in early 2007 and taking on a more modern Islamist agenda.

Shortly after this reorientation, a spate of deadly bombings echoed throughout Algeria's Kabylia region killing six people. In April 2007, at least 30 people were killed in attacks on official buildings in Algiers.

Following these bombings, attacks were reported on buses carrying foreign oil workers, on diplomats, soldiers, and, finally, against the motorcade of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was not harmed, though 20 others were killed in the blast.

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