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Terrorists from Pak, Afghanistan pose biggest threat: FBI
Lalit K Jha in Washington | February 24, 2009 11:28 IST
Terrorists operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan pose the main threat to the United States, America's top intelligence official has said.
"Our primary threat continues to come from the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. But we are seeing persistent activity elsewhere, from the Maghreb and the Sahel to Yemen," Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller said on Monday.
Delivering a speech on the FBI's role in global terrorism at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mueller expressed concern about people around the world who identify with the Al Qaeda [Images] and its ideology.
"Now, some may have little or no actual contact with Al Qaeda. Yet fringe organisations can quickly gain broader aspirations and appeal. Should they connect with the core of Al Qaeda, from training to the planning and execution of attacks, the game becomes radically different," he said.
Mueller said even eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the US not only faces threats from Al Qaeda, but also from less well-known terrorist groups, as well as homegrown terrorists.
"In several of the plots we have disrupted since 9/11, some have asked whether individuals in question had the intent and the capability to carry out their plans. There will always be a tension between acting early to disrupt a plot in its planning stages and continuing to investigate until we are certain that the individuals in question are poised to attack, and in each case, that calibration will be different," he said.
"One pattern in particular concerns us. Over the years since September 11, we have learned of young men from communities in the United States, radicalised and recruited here to travel to countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen or Somalia. They may be recruited to participate in the fighting, or in the extreme case to become a suicide bomber," Muller said.
"A man from Minneapolis became what we believe to be the first US citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing. The attack occurred last October in northern Somalia, but it appears that this individual was radicalised here in the United States, in his hometown in Minnesota," he said.
"The prospect of young men, indoctrinated and radicalised within their own communities, and induced to travel to such countries to take up arms, and to kill themselves and perhaps many others, is a perversion of the immigrant story," he said.
Muller said a number of individuals have traveled to Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia from the US.
"They may be Somali or they may be converts who are not necessarily out of the Somali community but have gone over to Somalia to train and to fight," he said.
"So, over a period of time, we have identified these individuals. Some of them have returned, some have been prosecuted, and some of them remain overseas. It is a constant problem in which the issue with regard to the individual from the Somali community here is just one manifestation of a problem that we've had since September 11," Muller added.