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Reuters: Insight: Local Wars Blur al-Qaeda's Threat to West

Author: William Maclean
July 5, 2012


The West may no longer be the main target for terrorist organizations; turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa has given rise to an increased number of more locally-focused attacks in the last year.

Spinoff groups from al Qaeda have become increasingly engrossed in insurgencies in Africa and the Middle East, inflicting death and mayhem on local communities. But this emphasis on the pursuit of the enemy nearby has cast doubt on their commitment, in practice, to bin Laden's war on the "far enemy" - the West and the United States in particular.

More than a year after U.S. forces killed bin Laden, some groups such as the Yemeni-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) undoubtedly remain a menace to the West.

Turmoil in Syria, Somalia and parts of Libya, Mali, Iraq and Nigeria has also allowed Islamist militias to recruit, train, arm and organize. And yet their targets have been overwhelmingly close at hand, rather than in Europe or the United States.

"Al Qaeda has become a useful label for any group that essentially pursues local aims but wishes to exaggerate its reach and sophistication," said Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Al-Qaida-Taliban Monitoring Team at the United Nations.

"Al Qaeda has lost much of its reputation as the vanguard of a global cause, and as the activities of its affiliates result in more and more death and destruction for local communities, this process will accelerate," he told Reuters.

Boasting newly-acquired weapons, kidnap ransom funds, territorial gains in remote regions and a coterie of radicalized Western volunteers, many groups appear to have the wherewithal for viable plots within Western borders, Western officials say.

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