Washington, May 11 (ANI): American and Pakistani intelligence officials have said that foreign operatives of al Qaeda, who had focused on plotting attacks against the West, are capitalising on the turmoil to sow chaos in the country and strengthen the hand of the militant Islamist groups there, a leading US based daily has reported.
The New York Times reports that indication came on April 19, when a truck parked inside a Qaeda compound in South Waziristan erupted in a fireball when a C.I.A. missile struck it.
American intelligence officials say that the truck had been loaded with high explosives, apparently to be used as a bomb, which would have been more devastating than the suicide bombing that killed more than 50 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.
Al Qaeda's leaders are a predominantly Arab group of Egyptians, Saudis and Yemenis, as well as other nationalities like Uzbeks and for years they have nurtured ties to Pakistani militant groups like the Taliban operating in the mountains of Pakistan.
The foreign operatives have set their sights on targets bigger than those selected by the local militant groups, aiming for spectacular attacks against the West, but they may see new opportunity in the recent violence.
Intelligence officials say the Taliban advances in Swat and Buner, which are closer to Islamabad than to the tribal areas, have already helped al Qaeda in its recruiting efforts.
The officials say the group's recruiting campaign is currently aimed at young fighters across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia who are less inclined to plan and carry out far-reaching global attacks and who have focused their energies on more immediate targets, the NYT reports.
"They smell blood, and they are intoxicated by the idea of a jihadist takeover in Pakistan," said Bruce O. Riedel, a former analyst for the CIA, who recently led the Obama Administration's policy review of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
American government officials and terrorism experts said that Al Qaeda's increasing focus on a local strategy was partly born from necessity, as the CIA's intensifying airstrikes have reduced the group's ability to hit targets in the West.
The United States has conducted 16 drone strikes so far this year, according to American officials, compared with 36 strikes in all of 2008.
According to a Pakistani intelligence assessment provided, al Qaeda has adapted to the deaths of its leaders by shifting "to conduct decentralized operations under small but well-organized regional groups" within Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At the same time, the group has intensified its recruiting, to replace its airstrike casualties.
One of Al Qaeda's main goals in Pakistan, the assessment said, was to "stage major terrorist attacks to create a feeling of insecurity, embarrass the government and retard economic development and political progress," the paper says. (ANI)