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Al-Qaeda strengthens in Pakistan: report

world Updated: May 11, 2009 09:24 IST
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The Al-Qaeda terror network is seizing on the turmoil in Pakistan to strengthen its presence in the country and bolster militant Islamist groups there, The New York Times reported late on Sunday.

Citing unnamed US and Pakistani intelligence officials, the newspaper said an indication of this process came on April 19, when a truck parked inside an Al-Qaeda compound in South Waziristan erupted in a fireball when it was struck by a CIA missile.

US intelligence officials say the truck had been loaded with high explosives apparently to be used as a bomb, the report said.

That bomb could have been more devastating than the one used in a suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September, the paper noted.

Intelligence officials say the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than to the tribal areas, have already helped Al-Qaeda in its recruiting efforts, The Times reported.

The group's recruiting campaign is currently aimed at young fighters across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia who are less inclined to plan and carry out far-reaching global attacks and have focused their energies on local targets, the report said.

US intelligence analysts believe it is unlikely that Islamic militants will seize power in Pakistan, the paper noted.

But a senior American intelligence official expressed concern that recent successes by the Taliban in extending territorial gains could foreshadow the creation of 'mini-Afghanistans' around Pakistan that would allow militants more freedom to plot attacks, The Times said.