Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Terror camp linked to al-Qaeda found in southern Libya

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , PARIS

Libyan forces have discovered a terrorist camp with ties to al-Qaeda in the country's southern desert, a French newspaper reported Sunday. The report did not say whether the camp was active or abandoned when it was found on June 24.

The newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, quoted European anti-terrorism officials as saying that the camp, thought to be used by the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, was near the border with Chad, not far from the region where Chadian rebel forces are holding one of the terrorist group's most senior members, Amari Saifi, known as Al Para.

The rebel group has been negotiating for weeks about handing Saifi over to Algeria, where he is wanted in connection with terrorist strikes. Last month, Algerian forces waited in the desert of Niger in hopes of a transfer but withdrew when negotiations with the Chadian rebels bogged down and the Algerian forces' supplies ran short.

Under the latest plan, Libya would play a role.

The Salafist Group, known by its French initials, GSPC, is North Africa's largest, best-organized and wealthiest terrorist organization. Its goal is to establish an Islamic state in Algeria.

Last year, Saifi received US$6 million in ransom from Germany for the release of kidnapped European tourists, money that he used to buy weapons and recruit fresh fighters in the largely ungoverned desert stretching from Mauritania to Chad.

Algeria continues to battle the GSPC in the north of Libya. Last month it killed the group's leader, Nabil Sahraoui, in an ambush, leaving Saifi as the most senior surviving member.

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