New terror leader in Algeria pledges allegiance to Al Qaida

Thursday, October 23, 2003

CAIRO Algeria's largest insurgency group has reaffirmed its allegiance to Al Qaida in what appears to signal an increase in the already close cooperation between the two organizations.

The Salafist Brigade for Combat and Call issued its first communique under the new leadership headed by Nabil Sahwari, also known as Abu Ibrahim Mustafa. Sahwari was said to have replaced Salafist leader Hassan Hattab in August amid a power struggle that concerned the abduction of 32 Western European tourists in the southern Sahara.

In the latest communique, the Salafist leadership said it would remain loyal to Al Qaida and Taliban. The Salafist group said it would also support the Islamic struggle in such places as Chechnya, Palestine and the Philippines.

The Salafist group also called for unity of Islamic forces throughout the world, Middle East Newsline reported. The communique said this must include cooperation in operations and finances.

The Salafist statement was regarded as significant because the group has been deemed the leading subcontractor of Al Qaida. Western intelligence sources said Salafist insurgents have been employed by Al Qaida for attacks in North Africa and in France. The sources said the communique marked the clearest expression of loyalty to Osama Bin Laden.

The communique, dated Sept. 11, 2003, said the new leadership of Sahwahri withdrew its earlier reservations over the Al Qaida suicide strikes on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Weeks after the Al Qaida strikes, Hattab's leadership issued a statement that said the killing of 3,000 Americans in the suicide air strikes did not represent the work of Muslims, including Bin Laden.

The Salafist Brigade was said to have up to 4,000 insurgents around North Africa and Europe. About 350 of them are said to operate in the area east of Algiers.

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