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France, US Top al-Qaida's List of Western Targets

Wednesday, 07 Aug 2013 12:19 PM

An analysis of messages released by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) this year shows France ranked second - trailing only the United States - as the top Western propaganda target in 2013, France24 reported.

The IntelCenter, a private U.S. intelligence firm, studied more than 45 messages released this year by the AQAP, which has emerged as one of al-Qaida’s most dangerous affiliates. It found that among all countries, Yemen came in second, followed by France and Mali, with Britain and Saudi Arabia tied for fifth on the target list.

“AQAP’s messaging focus provides insights into where its operational focus is now and where it is headed,” according to the IntelCenter.

Since France launched its military intervention in Mali in January, - al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the jihadist organization’s North Africa affiliate - has repeatedly called on adherents to attack French interests.

But the AQAP has emerged as a transnational terror force in the wake of its role in plots including the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound jetliner and the November 2009 killings of 13 U.S. servicemen at Fort Hood, Texas.

Both of the aforementioned U.S. plots involved U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior AQAP operative, who was killed in a September 2011 U.S. drone strike.

The AQAP has become increasingly vocal in its broadsides against enemies outside the Arabian Peninsula, and the high-profile nature of the French intervention in Mali has drawn its attention.

In a message released in February, for instance, AQAP compared the French intervention in Mali to what it called the "Zionist occupation of Palestine". The AQAP statement, which was posted on jihadist forums, noted that supporting jihadists in Mali was "a duty for every able Muslim, to offer himself or his money, each according to his ability."

While the US has scores of diplomatic posts based on the latest intercepts of jihadist communications, France has so far only shut its embassy in the Yemeni capital.

In an interview with FRANCE 24, Mathieu Guidère, a professor at Université Toulouse II and an expert on Islamic terrorism, said US security measures were tightened following a worldwide audit of U.S. diplomatic posts after the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, which killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

“France has not carried out an audit of its diplomatic missions as the U.S. has. Thus it has merely given instructions to step up security at its embassies,” said Guidere. “France is not under the same degree of threat as the U.S. even though the military intervention in Mali has focused the attention of jihadist networks from around the world (on France).”

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