Bulgarian Intelligence: Iraq Conflict Fuels Al Qaeda Menace

Politics | January 14, 2005, Friday // 00:00

Iraq has become a recruiting ground for Al Qaeda, which is training agents, including Western nationals, and sending them home to set up networks or form sleeper cells, according to two France-based experts.

"There is very clear information on this, notably from Bulgarian intelligence", said Paris-based Algerian journalist Atmane Tazaghart, who is also a specialist on Islamic fundamentalist groups.

Tazaghart and Roland Jacquard, a leading French analyst who has worked for a UN terrorism panel make their assessment in a new 500-page book: "Bin Laden - the programmed destruction of the West".

The book argues that Al Qaeda is now capable of striking the West and its allies with chemical, biological and radiological weapons - so-called "dirty bombs" - that could wreak havoc on humans and the global economy.

"The crucible of Iraq is really becoming a recruitment ground ... Not everyone who arrives is allowed to fight in Iraq, but some are trained for 45 days or three months, and then they are asked to return home and set up logistics or financial networks, or sleeper cells," Tazaghart told journalists at a book presentation on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week a senior Bulgarian secret service official said extremists with links to Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network are present in the Balkans and are infiltrating other European countries.

"We have information that people with connections to structures linked to Al Qaeda have passed through Bulgaria on their way to other European countries," secret service chief General Kircho Kirov told Trud daily.

In his words some of the extremists, who have entered the Balkans, have previously been in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

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