January 26th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: The magic of Middle Earth

Editorial: Argentina - from role model to basket case

Al Qaeda network must be destroyed

Policy not structure the problem for National Party

Industry policy behind Celtic Tiger's success

Straws in the Wind: Great Helmsmen: past and present / A tale of two branches

Anti-war protests leave Melbourne cold

Media: When the Left calls for time-out

Letter: Exports and imports

Letter: Alcohol abuse

Trade: APEC’s demise paves the way for China’s free trade pact

United States: Year of the Right?

Japan: a nation in search of a role

History: Roosevelt’s timeless wisdom

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Al Qaeda network must be destroyed

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, January 26, 2002

The latest revelations about the al Qaeda terrorist "university" in Afghanistan, including videos of terrorists simulating hostage taking and assassinations, the existence of al Qaeda terrorist cells in Malaysia and Singapore, which planned attacks on US facilities and the Australian High Commission, proves that effectively, the Taliban ran a terrorist state committed to war on the rest of the non-Islamic world.

As such, they amply vindicate the action of the US to destroy the Taliban regime, and to hunt down its leaders, particularly Mullah Omah, and al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

What is not yet clear is how closely al Qaeda worked with the 50 or so terrorist organisations which currently operate throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and how much of its network survives.


It appears that although al Qaeda functioned independently of other organisations, it also worked through some that operated under its umbrella or with its support, including Islamic Jihad, and a number of groups in other countries, including Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Bosnia, Croatia, Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kashmir, and Chechnya in Russia.

Al Qaeda has also been reported to maintain cells and personnel in many other countries, including Australia, Singapore, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania, the UK, Canada and the US.

By working with and training members of other terrorist organisations, al Qaeda co-ordinated a sophisticated international operation against their perceived common enemies in the West - particularly the United States, which al Qaeda regards as an "infidel" state that provides essential support for other "infidel" governments.

Those fatwahs resulted in attacks against US nationals in various countries, including Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Yemen, and last year, the United States. About 5,000 people have died in those attacks.

Despite the undoubted effectiveness of the US-led military operations against the Taliban regime and al Qaeda inside Afghanistan, there is no doubt that al Qaeda operatives in many other countries remain in place, although, clearly, the network’s military operations have been severely disrupted by the overthrow of the Taliban.

Significantly, the 168 individuals and organisations which the US has designated as terrorist are overwhelmingly Arab and/or Islamic, although several other organisations - operating in the Basque provinces of Spain, Northern Ireland, Latin America and Sri Lanka - have been included on the list.

Apart from offering a $US25 million reward for bin Laden’s capture, some 460 individuals have being detained within the US in connexion with terrorist activities, and 77 of them are facing federal American criminal charges.

They include Zacarias Moussaoui who has been charged with conspiring with bin Laden and al Qaeda to murder thousands of people in the September 11 suicide bombings in the US.

This indicates the size of the terror network in the United States. It would be naive to believe that such a network is not operating in other Western countries, although most Muslims clearly have nothing to do with it.

Since the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan, US forces have concentrated on the search for bin Laden and the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omah, and rounding up the surviving foreign operatives whom bin Laden trained in that country.

The swift action taken by the US to transfer up to 300 captured al Qaeda operatives to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, at the eastern tip of Cuba, is clearly designed to enable the US to interrogate them at length, in order to destroy the network.

Despite criticism from bodies such as Amnesty International, this action is justified in light of the secrecy under which al Qaeda operated, bin Laden’s admission to have planned the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, and the threat his organisation continues to pose to the West, evidenced in the recent arrest, in Singapore, of 15 people, including 14 Singaporeans and one Malaysian.

Police conducted searches of their residences, turning up al Qaeda training materials, forged passports and immigration documents, and instructions on bomb-making.

A video was also found which had apparently been made as part of target surveillance. Eight of the arrested men had trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, the Government said. The group was allegedly linked to Jemaah Islamiah, a clandestine Islamic group with ties to similar groups in Malaysia and Indonesia. Several of the men were reported to be members of Singapore’s armed forces.

A day earlier, the Malaysian Government announced the arrest of 13 suspects linked to al Qaeda and to three men accused of involvement in the September 11 attacks in the United States.

The war against al Qaeda is far from over.

  • Peter Westmore

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