One of two radical armed Muslim fundamentalist groups in Algeria has threatened to attack US and European interests in the country if the West strikes at "Muslim and Arab nations," a paper reported Monday.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), led by Hassan Hattab, reportedly warned that it would "strike hard" at foreign countries if they "persist in hunting down Islamist networks in America, Great Britain, France and Belgium."
The Arabic daily El Youm said it had received this threat in a statement received from the GSPC, which, together with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), is blamed for ongoing massacres of civilians and attacks on security forces in Algeria in an insurgency which began in 1992.
After last Tuesday's deadly terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, the GSPC warned the United States and other countries against "any precipitate [action to] avenge innocent people," and charged that a plot against Muslims had been hatched by "Jews and evil-doers".
"Islamist organizations do not target, in their actions, innocent civilians," the statement said, implicitly rejecting any responsibility by Muslim extremists and Washington's prime suspect, Osama bin Laden, for the attacks in which more than 5,000 people died.
The GSPC is part of the Saudi-born millionaire's organization al-Qaeda (The Base), according to El Youm. President George Bush has said that bin Laden, who is in Afghanistan, is a prime suspect in the attacks.
The movement reaffirmed its determination to fight for the establishment of an Islamic state in secular Algeria, the paper said.
The GSPC, which opposes President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's policy of civil reconciliation, is a splinter movement from Antar Zouabri's GIA. According to the Algerian press, it was set up with support from bin Laden who financed it and helped it to establish foreign networks -- ALGIERS (AFP)
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