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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 12:40 GMT
Al-Qaeda may use internet to regroup
A woman working on the computer in an internet cafe
US says al-Qaeda operatives often use public Internet cafes
Newly detected internet traffic and intercepted emails among al-Qaeda followers indicate that elements of the organisation may be trying to regroup outside Afghanistan, according to a newspaper report.

Al-Qaeda is searching all round the world for new sanctuaries

John McLaughlin, Deputy Director of the CIA
US officials say they have found new websites and internet communications that may be part of an effort to rebuild al-Qaeda network in remote parts of Pakistan near the Afghan border, the New York Times reported.

The officials are said to have expressed concerns that al-Qaeda could use the internet to launch new attacks against the United States, but added that the content of the intercepted cyber traffic had not indicated specific threats.

They said highly mobile al-Qaeda operatives often checked messages in public internet cafes around the world, which made them hard to track.

But they cuationed that the full significance of the internet activity was still unclear, and that it was uncertain whether any senior al-Qaeda members were involved.

Search for new sanctuaries

A senior American law enforcement officer told the New York Times that at least some of the communications could be traced back to Pakistan.

US President George W Bush
Bush promised to root al-Qaeda's influence around the globe

Washington believes that some villages in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province and perhaps others in the disputed Kashmir region may be serving as new sanctuaries for Osama Bin Laden's network outside Afghanistan.

"Al-Qaeda is searching all round the world for new sanctuaries," Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John McLaughlin was quoted as saying.

The New York Times said al-Qaeda's presence in as many as 60 countries made communications vital for the survival of the network.

It said clusters of the organisation's followers have recently been active in countries outside of Central Asia - including Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Spain and Yemen, - adding that some al-Qaeda fighters were also believed to have slipped out of Afghanistan into Iran.

'Rout 'em out'

The US Government has pledged to help other countries to fight Bin Laden's network.

"As long as there is al-Qaeda influence anywhere, we will help the host countries rout 'em out and bring 'em to justice," President George W Bush said last week.

As well as the operations against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, US troops are actively involved in efforts by the Philippine Government to contain Muslim guerrillas that Washington believes to have links with al-Qaeda.

US also plans to train and equip troops in the former Soviet republic of Georgia to fight suspected al-Qaeda members who are believed to have escaped there.

See also:

23 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda threat lives on
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: What next for al-Qaeda?
07 Oct 01 | Americas
Guide to military strength
04 Mar 02 | Americas
Analysis: Last stand or long war?
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