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January 23, 2004
French Intelligence: Al-Qaeda Severely Damaged, Not Destroyed

The head of French intelligence substantiated George Bush's State of the Union contention that al-Qaeda has been significantly damaged but remains a threat against American and Western interests:

The al-Qaida network has been severely destabilized but not destroyed by the war on terror and still represents a "very motivated and very dangerous" threat, the head of France's domestic intelligence agency said Friday. ... Bousquet de Florian said it "has been destabilized to a large extent" but "retains a capacity to carry out operations."

"Very apparently," November's suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, were, if not ordered by al-Qaida, then "validated by the heads of al-Qaida or by Osama bin Laden himself," he said, referring to the terror network's fugitive leader. Despite losing leaders, fighters, training camps and financing to the war on terror, al-Qaida "remains a structure that is very motivated and very dangerous," said Bousquet de Florian.

President Bush warned Congress and the American people not to get complacent and make the mistake of assuming that the threat had passed, but that progress has been and continues to be gained against al-Qaeda. de Florian gives essentially the same message. While the French intelligence chief does not believe that there were solid connections between Saddam and al-Qaeda, he states that Saddam had been directly funding another terrorist group:

Bousquet de Florian said France has no indication that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida had links. But he said France has evidence that Saddam's regime financed another group, the Mujahedeen Khalq, which the United States and the European Union have branded a terrorist organization. France cracked down on the Mujahedeen Khalq's French operations last June, raiding over a dozen sites including its walled headquarters in Auvers-Sur-Oise, north of Paris. More than 150 people were detained.

The Mujahedeen Khalq is an Iranian opposition group which for years fought Iran's Islamic leadership from Iraq with the backing of Saddam's regime. It was disarmed by U.S. forces in Iraq soon after major hostilities ended in May.

Those who insist that Saddam was a "distraction" from the war on terror should be paying more attention.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 23, 2004 6:58 PM

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