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Al Qaeda under pressure for new strike -spy chief
Updated: 2004-02-11 09:04

Al Qaeda is under pressure to strike another "high-value" Western target and may be looking at attacking chemical plants or shooting down planes with surface-to-air missiles, a top German intelligence official said Tuesday.

"A substantial decline in activities in the next couple of years is highly improbable," Rudolf Adam, deputy head of German's BND foreign intelligence agency, told a security conference in Berlin.

"On the contrary, we would feel that pressure is mounting on al Qaeda to reassert its effectiveness and its ability to strike another really big high-value target" in order to remain visible, he said.

Al Qaeda, blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, has not succeeded in striking the West again since. But it or its affiliates have been held responsible for a series of attacks elsewhere, including in Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey, Kenya, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Adam said air transport remained a potential target, adding: "The next threat that we observe with great concern is the possibilities of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, so called MANPADs."

Two such missiles narrowly missed an Israeli airliner taking off from the Kenyan port of Mombasa in November 2002, in an operation attributed to al Qaeda. They have also been used by insurgents in Iraq.

Adam said shipping, tourist sites and supply infrastructure such as oil pipelines, power stations, electricity grids and water supplies remained potentially at risk.

"We have unspecified hints that plans have been made or are still under way to target the chemical industry and chemical infrastructure," he said, without giving details.

Adam also said there was concern that al Qaeda might consider kidnappings -- a tactic it has not previously used -- as a bargaining chip to seek the release of prominent members captured during the U.S.-led war on terror.

"We have some disturbing evidence that kidnappings have been planned," he said.

Adam said the "first generation" of al Qaeda had been badly weakened in the war on terror, but even the capture or killing of its leader Osama bin Laden would leave behind a second generation of fighters, trained in Afghan camps, and a third generation currently being recruited.

"The cancer has already proliferated into innumerable metastases," he said.

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