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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 12:27 GMT
Al-Qaeda confuses US Congressman
By Adam Brookes
BBC News, Washington

Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden's followers often see Shia Muslims as apostates
A US Congressman tasked with overseeing intelligence has shown himself apparently unable to distinguish between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

In an interview with Congressional Quarterly magazine, Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat, said al-Qaeda was a predominantly Shia organisation.

The opposite is the truth - al-Qaeda professes a form of Sunni extremism.

Mr Reyes is a long-time member of the House Intelligence Committee and is set to become its new chairman in January.

The Committee is regularly briefed on intelligence matters and is responsible for the budgets, organisation and overall direction of US spy agencies.

Hence you would expect Mr Reyes to be pretty well informed.

But when an interviewer tested him on basic knowledge of US enemies, he seemed anything but.

When asked whether al-Qaeda was a Sunni or a Shia group, Mr Reyes answered that it was predominantly Shia.

When Mr Reyes was asked whether Hezbollah was Sunni or Shia, he appeared unable to answer.

Hezbollah is, of course, a Shia organisation.

The office of Mr Reyes, when asked for comment, said only that he was acutely aware of al-Qaeda's desire to harm Americans and the House Intelligence Committee would keep its eye on the ball.

But as Democrats ready themselves to take control of Congress following their election victory in November, Mr Reyes' display of ignorance will not help them in their quest to persuade Americans that they are competent on matters of national security.

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