Al-Qaeda Plot To Attack France
French intelligence has produced a dossier alleging that al-Qaeda plans an attack on the country during forthcoming presidential elections. The Arabic-language al-Hayat daily newspaper has reported there were "several indications of a plot to copy the Spanish scenario in France", a reference to the explosions that rocked Madrid in March 2004. The London-based daily quoted mainly "messages posted on internet sites close to al-Qaeda carrying threats against France, accompanied by pictures from the campaigns for the presidential elections", which are slated for April and May. The newspaper said the eight-page intelligence report took three months to prepare and included contributions from different French intelligence services which identified "four sources of threat". One came from "Iraqi networks", including returnee volunteers from European countries who had fought with the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda. "The north African networks linked to Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat" (GSPC) are another source of threat, the report said.Al-Hayat also published a letter attributed to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden addressed to a GSPC leader referred to as Abu Qassem, in which he recommends targeting France "to hit where it hurts most". Although France was not mentioned by name in the letter, the Saudi-born terror chief - who has a $US25 million ($32 million) US bounty on his head - made clear references to it. "This infidel country has colonised Muslim countries for a long time. Today it uses all its power to support the infidel group which rules Algeria with an iron fist," bin Laden said in the letter published by the daily. "It is a religious duty to fight [this enemy] even in the heart of its land, especially that it chases the mujahedeen [holy warriors] within its country and in neighbouring ones ... and that it is a firm US ally," the letter said. Paris has come under fire from Islamic radicals over its 2004 ban on religious insignia including the Muslim headscarf in state schools, as well as over its support for the Algerian Government. In January, the GSPC urged Algerians to attack French nationals. Formed in 1998 by dissidents of the Islamic Armed Group, the GSPC is the sole remaining radical movement that continues to wage an insurgency against the secular Algerian state. Last September the group officially placed itself under al-Qaeda orders.