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World: Recent Developments In The War On Terror

  • Roman Kupchinsky

http://gdb.rferl.org/3C0DE03F-BF1C-4BA0-8F54-4298EEE527EC_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/3C0DE03F-BF1C-4BA0-8F54-4298EEE527EC_mw800_mh600.jpg A restaurant gutted by one of Saturday's bombs in Bali Recent developments in the war on terror appear to resemble a pendulum. French police succeeded in arresting nine suspected members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Violence (GSPC); suicide bombers struck in Bali on 1 October; Algerians voted to declare an amnesty for Salafist terrorists still at liberty; violence continued unabated in Iraq despite the killing of a leading Al-Qaeda figure in that country.

Bombs In Bali

The three bombs, which exploded on 1 October in locales frequented by Western tourists on the island of Bali, killed at least 19 people and injured over 100. Police have reported finding three severed heads of men they suspect were suicide bombers responsible for the attacks.

The bombs exploded simultaneously and law-enforcement officials are believed to suspect Jemaah Islamiyah, a radical Islamic group in Indonesia that are thought to be behind other major attacks, including the 12 October 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people died.

After the 2002 bombing, Indonesian police initiated a long-overdue crackdown on militants and the government arrested hundreds of suspected militants, including people accused of plotting attacks against U.S. targets overseas.

The crackdown led to a split within the organization, with many militants rejecting terror. At this time, a splinter group emerged, headed by British-educated Azhari Husin and Malaysian Muhammad Noordin Top, and is believed to be responsible for the attack on the Marriot Hotel in Jakarta in August 2003, "The New York Times" reported on 3 October.

Police have indicated that this splinter group is considered a suspect in the 1 October bombings.

French Arrests

The intelligence service of the French police arrested on 26 September nine suspected members of the Algerian GSPC in the Paris suburb of Trappes, in the Yvelines department, and in Normandy on suspicion of planning a series of attacks in France.

According to Bloomberg, "The leader of the Islamic cell is acquainted with Rachid Ramda, who's accused of financing attacks on the Paris subway system and other public places that left eight people dead and 215 injured in July 1995."

Ramda is in jail in the United Kingdom after being arrested in London in 1995. Over the past decade, there have been nine legal proceedings to extradite Ramda to France. They have been unsuccessful, however, due to the fact that evidence against Ramda came from a codefendant who had been mistreated in French custody.

On 6 April 2005, the British Home Office made a decision to extradite Ramda to France.

The Killing Of Abu Azzam

Abu Azzam, considered by intelligence services to be a "significant" figure in the Al-Qaeda network in Iraq and second in command to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, was slain on 25 September in Baghdad during a joint operation.

Azzam, whose full name is Abdulla Najim Abdulla Mohammed al-Juwari and who was also known by the name of Abu Salwa, was the Baghdad commander of Zarqawi's organization in Iraq.

"The New York Times" reported on 27 September that military officials said that he was "responsible for the recent upsurge in violent attacks in the city since April 2005." He planned bombings that killed hundreds of Iraqis, said Laith Kubba, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al Ja'afari.

Despite Azzam's death, a suicide bomber on 27 September walked into a crowd of recruits gathered outside a police compound northeast of Baghdad and killed seven while injuring 23 recruits. The following days more suicide bombers and car bombs exploded in Baghdad and other cities in Iraq.

Serbian Authorities Deport Suspect To Spain

Abdelmajid Bouchar, a 22-year-old Moroccan man wanted by Spain as a prime suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombing, was deported from Serbia to Spain on 25 September. Spanish prosecutors suspect Bouchar played a "decisive role" in the coordinated attacks against four commuter trains in which 191 people were killed, CNN reported on 25 September.

Spanish authorities have been seeking Bouchar's extradition on an international arrest warrant since August 2004 after he was arrested by Serbian police for carrying forged Iraqi documents in June 2004.

Algerian Vote

On 29 September, Algerians overwhelmingly voted to accept a peace plan touted as a "Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation" by President Abdelaziz Boutefilka, which will grant amnesty to remnants of the militant Islamic insurgency that has been active since 1992.

At least 150,000 people, including many women and children, have died in the years of violence in which the GSPC conducted indiscriminate attacks. There have also been numerous reports that the Algerian Army committed atrocities during the fighting against the insurgents.

For the most part, the war ended in 2000 after thousands of militants were killed, jailed, or pardoned by an earlier amnesty. According to the "Financial Times" of 30 September, some 1,000 fighters are still active and could be amnestied.

Reports in the media gave a mixed reaction among Algerians to the peace plan. Many reported that in those towns where large-scale atrocities took place, there are few willing to forgive and forget. The BBC reported on 1 October that many Algerians are upset that the government did not establish "truth commissions" on the South African model to investigate the causes of the violence.
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