Al Qaeda Threat Spurs Call for Regional Unity
Byline: Andrew Borowiec, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
TUNIS, Tunisia - Tunisia is pressing its North African neighbors to pool their resources to jointly confront regional penetration by al Qaeda and its offshoots, senior officials say.
Police chiefs and intelligence authorities have held emergency conferences here and in Tripoli, Libya, while efforts are under way to obtain cooperation from European countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The objective, according to Tahar Fellous, director general of Tunisia's Interior Ministry, is to destroy "terror wrapped perniciously in the flag of Islam."
The efforts were disclosed amid growing concern over attacks this year in Algeria and Morocco.
The attacks, accompanying the creation of al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa and its offshoot, Warriors of the Prophet in the Sahara, spurred U.S. fears about the area's ability to resist the extremists.
CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and White House Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend visited Morocco this past summer to assess the situation, according to French intelligence sources.
While Tunisia has managed to keep terrorism at bay, Algeria and Morocco appear to be more vulnerable.
"No country can assure its protection against terrorism single-handedly," Mr. Fellous said in an interview.
He and other officials close to Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali stressed the need for a new approach involving an attack on "the roots of terror," which they described as poverty, marginalization and religious fanaticism.
Mr. Fellous said Tunisia's efforts included not only "military vigilance, implantation of security forces and increased border controls," but also an attack on radical Islamic propaganda, changes in some school textbooks and removal of imams "who violated the nobility of the religion" by urging jihad, or holy war. …