Al Qaeda gains recruits from Iraq war - UN

Updated: 2006-09-28 09:26

UNITED NATIONS - A U.N. report released on Wednesday said the Iraq war provided al Qaeda with a training center and recruits, reinforcing a U.S. intelligence study blaming the conflict for a surge in Islamic extremism.

The report by terrorism experts working for the U.N. Security Council said al Qaeda was playing a central role in the fighting in Iraq as well as inspiring a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, several hundred miles (km) away.

"New explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq," said the report. "And while the Taliban have not been found fighting outside Afghanistan/Pakistan, there have been reports of them training in both Iraq and Somalia."

Al Qaeda, it said, "has gained by continuing to play a central role in the fighting (in Iraq) and in encouraging the growth of sectarian violence, and Iraq has provided many recruits and an excellent training ground," it said.

The report said that al Qaeda's influence may soon wane in Iraq, citing some fighters' complaints that they were unhappy to learn upon arriving in the country that they would have to kill fellow Muslims rather than foreign fighters or could serve their cause only as suicide bombers.

The report was prepared by a team of experts set up to monitor the effectiveness of Security Council sanctions imposed on the Taliban and al Qaeda shortly after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

A 2001 council resolution requires all 192 U.N. member-nations to freeze the assets and travel of any person or group suspected of ties to al Qaeda or Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers, and bars arms deals with them.

U.S. President George W. Bush faced heavy criticism from political foes after parts of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate leaked out this week, revealing intelligence experts' conclusion that Islamic extremists were "increasing in both number and geographic dispersion" due to the Iraq war.

The study, prepared in April, said the war had become a "cause celebre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said it was natural that war would lead to more violence, citing as an example Japan's World War II attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. response.

"If you said after the attack on Pearl Harbor that the American response had increased the violence in the Pacific, you would be right, wouldn't you? Because violence did increase after the attack and after our response," he told reporters.

"We are in conflict with international terrorism and the nature of that conflict is playing out in Iraq," he said.