The United States has confirmed a warning by Interpol that Al Qaida is planning simultaneous attacks in several parts of the world including South America and the Horn of Africa.
Western officials said Al Qaida has been joined by other Islamic groups, including Hizbullah and that one planning meeting had taken place in the notorious region of South America where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet, Middle East Newsline reported. The area is considered a haven for drug smugglers, Islamic terrorists and other outlaws.
The State Department has issued a worldwide alert of an attack against Americans. Officials said the attack could take place as early as this week, when a Pakistani national, Mir Ahmad Kasi, is set to be executed for the killing of two CIA employees in 1993. "All intelligence experts agree that Al Qaida is preparing a major terrorist operation, simultaneous attacks that would not only target the United States, but rather several countries at the same time," Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble said.
Noble told the French daily Le Figaro that Al Qaida has mobilized several insurgency groups for its campaign against the West. He said the risk of an attack on a major Western target is equal to that on the eve of Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaida conducted suicide missions over New York and Washington.
U.S. officials agreed with Noble's assessment. They said Al Qaida is prepared to launch a major operation over the next few weeks, with the focus being in the Horn of Africa and South America.
"Al Qaida is in a lot of different places, including that part of the world," Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said. "So we are working with a lot of different countries around the world, different ways, but we're working with a lot of different countries in trying to figure out the appropriate ways to root out Al Qaida in their backyards."
Officials said a particular concern is that Al Qaida and Hizbullah are planning joint operations against Israeli and U.S. targets in South America. Hizbullah's point man in this effort is Imad Mughniyeh, the head of the group's foreign operations.
A U.S. official told the CNN network that Hizbullah representatives met with agents from other insurgency groups in Ciudad del Este, where Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil meet. The official echoed an assessment by the Argentinian government that reported increased insurgency activity in the region meant to support Iraq.
"The U.S. government continues to receive credible indications that extremist groups and individuals are planning additional terrorist actions against U.S. interests," the State Department said. "Such actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations. Because security and security awareness have been elevated within the United States, the terrorists may target U.S. interests overseas."