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Monday, May 01, 2006,7:57 PM
US admits Iraq is terror 'cause'
By Tom Baldwin

THREE years after its invasion of Iraq the US Administration acknowledged yesterday that the war has become “a cause” for Islamic extremists worldwide and there is a risk of the country becoming a safe haven for terrorists hoping to launch fresh attacks on America.

According to CIA data released yesterday, there were 11,111 terrorist incidents last year, killing more than 14,600 non-combatants, including 8,300 in Iraq. Of the 56 American civilians killed by terrorists in 2005, some 47 of them were in Iraq.

The figures in the State Department’s annual report on terror represented a fourfold rise compared with 2004, partly because it has adopted a broader definition of such incidents since having to withdraw data used two years ago on the ground that it was grossly understated. Officials conceded yesterday that the rising violence in Iraq was a factor in last year’s figures, saying that fatalities from terrorism there had “probably doubled”.

The State Department said that al-Qaeda as a worldwide terrorist network was getting weaker — but a growing threat had emerged from small and “difficult to detect” groups who were using the internet.

“This trend means there could be a larger number of smaller attacks, less meticulously planned, and local rather than transnational in scope,” it said. These included the attacks on London last year which, the US says, were followed by two further thwarted plots. It was not yet clear if the July 7 bombers “had any ties to al-Qaeda or other international terrorist organisations”. Instead, they pointed to “a new phenomenon in global terrorism — that of homegrown terrorism in Europe”.

The State Department said: “Extremist groups continue to proselytise heavily in some European cities. The presence and activity of such terrorist cells was dramatically highlighted by the London bombings.”

Support among the US public for the war in Iraq has been sapped by the 2,396 American combat deaths since the invasion. The Pentagon hopes to limit deaths among American troops to “one KIA (killed in action) a day” — a figure that strategists believe will be politically sustainable. This month 68 US servicemen have died, more than double the number for last month.

There are also plans to withdraw up to 50,000 soldiers, a third of those in the country, by the end of this year as Iraq’s own forces take on more responsibility for security. But Ambassador Henry Crumpton, the US special co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, came close yesterday to suggesting that the war was exacerbating the terrorist problem, saying that for some international recruits “Iraq is a cause”.

Whilst arguing that Iraq was “not currently a safe haven” for terrorists, the report stated: “AlQaeda’s senior leaders have fully supported the Iraq terrorist movements and see it both as a means to influence and radicalise Muslim public opinion worldwide and as a magnet to draw in as many recruits as possible.”

Attacks on Iraq’s energy infrastructure “not only made the Iraqi Government appear incapable of providing essential services but . . . also sought to undercut public and international support for Iraq”.

Foreign fighters are believed to represent 4 to 10 per cent of the estimated 20,000 insurgents in Iraq.

Shortly after the report was released, Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, issued a rare video claiming that Iraqi insurgents had “broken America’s back”.

“Al-Qaeda in Iraq alone has carried out 800 martyrdom operations in three years, besides the victories of the other Mujahidin. And this is what has broken the back of America in Iraq,” Zawahri said in the video, posted on an Islamist Web site.

“America, Britain and their allies have achieved nothing but losses, disasters and misfortunes,” he added.

* Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Jordan, who headed the interrogation centre at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, was charged last night by the US Army with maltreatment of detainees, interfering with investigators and other counts.
He is the highest-ranking person to face charges over the scandal — twelve criminal counts relating to seven different charges.

Ten low-ranking soldiers have been convicted in military courts over the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of detainees
posted by R J Noriega
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