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Al Qaeda weak but ties with LeT, other groups pose threat: US

The core of al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan has weakened, but its relationships with LeT and other terror groups such as Tehrik-e-Taliban and Haqqani network pose threat to South Asia, a US report on terrorism said.

world Updated: Aug 19, 2011 08:58 IST

The core of al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan has weakened, but its relationships with LeT and other terror groups such as Tehrik-e-Taliban and Haqqani network pose threat to South Asia, a US report on terrorism said.

"Al Qaeda remained the preeminent terrorist threat to the United States in 2010. Though the AQ core in Pakistan has become weaker, it retained the capability to conduct regional and transnational attacks," the annual State Department Country Report on Terrorism for 2010 said.

"Cooperation between AQ and Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based militants was critical to the threat the group posed.

"In addition, the danger posed by Lashkar-e Taiba (LeT) and increased resource-sharing between AQ and its Pakistan-based allies and associates such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Haqqani Network meant the aggregate threat in South Asia remained high," the report said.

Released by the State Department, the report said al Qaeda's affiliates have grown stronger.

"While AQ senior leadership continued to call for strikes on the US homeland and to arrange plots targeted at Europe, the diversity of these efforts demonstrated the fusion of interests and the sharing of capabilities among AQ groups with different geographical focuses," it said.

"We saw TTP provide support to US citizen Faisal Shahzad, who sought to carry out a car bombing in Times Square in May. al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continued to demonstrate its growing ambitions and a strong desire to carry out attacks outside of its region."

Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in early May during a US Navy SEALs operation in Pakistan's garrison town of Abbottabad.

In a troubling trend, the report said, English-speaking militants increasingly connected to each other through online venues like militant discussion forums and video-sharing platforms, which encouraged both violent behavior and individual action.

"Many participants in online communities have real-world relationships with extremists who bolster their radicalism and mobilize them toward violent action," it said.

Five Pakistani Americans contacted by a Taliban recruiter through YouTube encouraged one-another to travel to Pakistan to train for warfare against the United States. They remained in Pakistani custody at year's end.

Several Somali Americans decided to go overseas to fight with al-Shabaab – a decision that was likely shaped by a combination of online propaganda, face-to-face recruitment, and supportive real-world peer networks, it said.

According to the report, the wave of non-violent democratic demonstrations that began to sweep the Arab world at the end of 2010 held promise but also some peril.

Great numbers of citizens advanced peaceful public demands for change without reference to AQ's incendiary world view, upending the group's longstanding claims that change would only come through violence and underscoring anew the group’s lack of influence over the central political issues in key Muslim-majority nations.

"But at the same time, the political turmoil distracted security officials and raised the possibility that terrorist groups would exploit the new openness and, in some cases, disarray, to carry out conspiracies, a possibility with significant and worrisome implications for states undergoing democratic transitions," it added.