Skip to comments.U.S. General Warns of Africa Terror Threat
Posted on 02/16/2004 7:04:04 PM PST by Ernest_at_the_Beach
Today: February 16, 2004 at 8:55:08 PST
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -
A clear terrorist threat still exists in East Africa, and greater military cooperation is needed to defeat it, a top U.S. general warned on Monday during a visit to Ethiopia.
Gen. John Abizaid, whose Central Command is responsible for Afghanistan, Iraq and East Africa, said closer "military and intelligence cooperation" was needed between East African governments to prevent extremist groups like al-Qaida from gaining an "ideological foothold" in the region.
"The threat is clear, but the threat can be deterred and can be defeated," he told journalists in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
"This terrorist threat knows no boundary, and when we operate only on a nation-state basis we will be unable to really get at the heart of the terrorist problem which is transnational."
Abizaid pointed out Somalia - which has had no central government since 1990 - as a potential trouble spot in the region.
"We know the terrorists gravitate toward ungoverned spaces, and these are areas where they look for the opportunities to gain recruits, establish safe-havens and move money," he said. "We certainly have indications to believe that people associated with these groups operate in and around areas such as Somalia."
Abizaid, who met with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, said his visit aimed to assess the capabilities of the region's forces for combating terrorism.
East Africa has already suffered four terrorist attacks, all either claimed by or blamed on Osama bin Laden's terror network. In August 1998, car bombs destroyed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; in October 2000, suicide bombers attacked the USS Cole while it was refueling in Yemen; and in November 2002, attackers tried to shoot down an Israeli airliner minutes before a car bomb destroyed a hotel on Kenya's coast.
Abizaid said the military situation in Iraq was "still difficult," especially in the Iraqi town of Fallujah. But he added that most of the country was stable enough for political activity to take place.
He said more time was needed to find weapons of mass destruction.
"It is clear that the hunt must continue," Abizaid said. "We all know this is a tough and a long fight in Iraq, it won't be over tomorrow and we intend to cooperate fully with Iraqi security institutions and help them help themselves."