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Pakistan remains al-Qaeda`s nerve centre: John Kerry

Last Updated: Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 00:04

Washington: There is no doubt that the al
Qaeda has expanded its network to newer areas like Yemen and
Somalia, but Pakistan remains its nerve centre, a top American
Senator said on Wednesday.

"Al-Qaeda`s affiliates demand our attention, but the
movement`s nerve centre remains in Pakistan," Senator John
Kerry, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations
Committee said in his remarks before the Committee`s hearing
on the December 25 attempt by a Nigerian national Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, to blow up a US plane.
"This Administration and many on this Committee have
long been concerned by the threat posed by al-Qaeda?s
beachhead in Yemen.

In fact, by Christmas, the Administration had
already begun partnering with Yemen`s government to go on
offence against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Kerry

"Al-Qaeda`s presence in Yemen may not be new, but it
is evolving. Last January, Saudi and Yemeni al Qaeda branches
merged to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

In May, an AQAP bomber travelled from Yemen to launch
a failed assassination attempt against a Saudi prince. Then,
the foiled Christmas Day attack revealed AQAP?s ambition to
launch terrorist operations not just regionally, but globally
and against America," he said.
Referring to a report released by the majority staff
of his committee, Kerry said this reveals troubling new
dimensions of the threat.

"According to US law enforcement officials, over the
past year, as many as three dozen American ex-convicts have
travelled to Yemen upon release from prison," he said.

"They reportedly went to study Arabic, but several
have since disappeared, raising concerns that they may have
gone to al Qaeda camps for training. US and Yemeni officials
are also concerned about the whereabouts and intentions of a
smaller group of Americans who have moved to Yemen, adopted a
radical form of Islam, and married local women," Kerry said.

As our enemies? tactics evolve, we need to keep up?
and that includes taking a close look at the unique threat
posed by American recruits into al Qaeda, he said.

The Republican ranking member of the Committee,
Senator Richard Lugar, said the United States must work
urgently and creatively to meet the potential terrorist threat
from Yemen.
"But, we can?t do it alone. First and foremost, we
need the unequivocal commitment of Yemen?s government to
combat al-Qaeda.

Our long-term strategy must account for the reality
that pursuing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is neither
logistically easy, nor politically popular with the Yemeni
people," he said. "We need to communicate to Yemen?s people
that our battle is not with them."

We should not be shy about advocating political
reform and decentralisation, goals that will both resonate
with the Yemeni people and promote greater stability, Lugar


First Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 - 00:04
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