May 12, 2006

Algerian group threatens US facilities in Africa

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian rebels have threatened to
strike U.S. military bases in north Africa and the Sub-Sahara

"There are U.S. military bases in Mali, Niger and two
others are to be constructed respectively in Mauritania and
Algeria ... They should know (Americans and local governments)
that we won't keep our arms crossed," a statement on the
Internet said.

The note was posted by the Salafist Group for Preaching and
Combat (GSPC), Algeria's main rebel faction linked to al Qaeda.
It was dated May 8 and signed by a top GSPC official, Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, also known as Khalid Abu Al.

The GSPC was behind the kidnapping of 32 European tourists
in the Sahara desert in 2003 as well as an attack on a military
base in Mauritania in 2005.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar said the growing U.S. military presence
in the Sub-Sahara region is mainly due to links between GSPC
and al Qaeda.

"They (Americans) started to be more present in the region
after they heard about our contacts with our al Qaeda
brothers," he said.

The authenticity of his statement could not be confirmed.
The Algerian government was unavailable to comment.

The United States has conducted joint training exercises in
countries around the Sahel as part of the "Trans Sahara Counter
Terrorism Initiative," expected to cost $100 million over five

It is also reinforcing military cooperation and
intelligence sharing with OPEC member Algeria, recovering from
an Islamic uprising lasting more than a decade and leaving
200,000 dead.