NEWS & ANALYSIS: Debatable targets

Al-Qaida claims responsibility for shooting attack near Israeli Embassy in Mauritania

Al-Qaida claimed responsibility early Sunday morning for Friday’s shooting attack near the Israeli Embassy in Mauritania that wounded three French nationals.

The international terrorist organization urged Muslim states to cut all ties to Israel. Mauritani, an Islamic republic that straddles black and Arab Africa, is one of the few Arab League states to have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Israeli sources said they believe the embassy was not in fact the target of the attack, but rather an adjacent restaurant frequented by foreign diplomats. The attack followed recent public calls by political parties in Mauritania for the government to sever ties to Jerusalem. [complete article]

Al Qaeda said to focus on WMDs

After a U.S. airstrike leveled a small compound in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions in January 2006, President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence officials announced that several senior Al Qaeda operatives had been killed, and that the top prize was an elusive Egyptian who was believed to be a chemical weapons expert.

But current and former U.S. intelligence officials now believe that the Egyptian, Abu Khabab Masri, is alive and well — and in charge of resurrecting Al Qaeda’s program to develop or obtain weapons of mass destruction.

Given the problems with previous U.S. intelligence assessments of weapons of mass destruction, officials are careful not to overstate Al Qaeda’s capabilities, and they emphasize that there is much they don’t know because of the difficulty in getting information out of the mountainous area of northwest Pakistan where the network has reestablished itself. [complete article]

Al-Qaeda ‘killing’ spawns doubts

It was unusual for Islamist websites to break the news of the death of an important al-Qaeda operative as they did this week in the case of Abu Laith al-Libi.

Two such websites – and as-Sahab – which usually carry statements from al-Qaeda leaders, reported the story.

These websites and al-Qaeda and its affiliates usually deny any report of their operatives’ deaths because the loss of a leading member of the network could be demoralising for its rank and file.

This change could mean one of two things. [complete article]

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