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Al Qaida ‘cars of death’ run over markets

Dubai, Nov. 17 (Reuters): Al Qaida struck fear into the world’s biggest financial markets today after a purported statement from the militant group vowed more suicide bombings against the US and its European and Asian allies.

European shares were mired in the red this afternoon, after Tokyo stocks fell to their lowest level since August — partially due to weekend bombings in Turkey and clashes in Iraq.

In New York, shares sagged in early morning trade, with Nasdaq falling more than one per cent as concerns over more deadly attacks rippled across the globe. Gold was approaching levels not seen since 1996 on a weakening dollar and security fears.

The purported statement from al Qaida unit Abu Hafz al-Masri Brigades, published in a London-based Arab newspaper, claimed responsibility for Saturday’s blasts at two Istanbul synagogues that killed at least 23 people. It also threatened the US, Australia, Japan, Italy and Britain, as well as their Arab allies, with more “cars of death” in the heart of their capitals.

Analysts said Qaida’s track record of violence was strong enough for such claims to be taken seriously. But they also said the US-led war on terror — launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks — had taken their toll on the militant network.

Washington blames Osama bin Laden’s group for the hijacked plane attacks on US cities which killed some 3,000 people.

Rolf Tophoven, head of the Institute for Terrorism Research and Security Policy in Essen, Germany, said he did not think al Qaida could stage another 9/11, with its leaders on the run and many sources of its funding choked. But he said the group was more likely to focus on soft targets in pro-Western Muslim countries, continuing the recent pattern of attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. “Today we don’t have in al Qaida a hierarchy, we don’t have a central command,” he said. “But we do have between 20,000 and 30,000 Muslims the world over who were trained in Afghanistan.”

“These militant Islamists spread over the world don’t need a central command, they don’t need a specific order who to attack. They know the states they must attack.”

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the email sent to the daily, which has in the past carried similar claims.

Suicide car bombs appear to be al Qaida’s weapon of choice and the same brigade claimed responsibility for the attack on the UN headquarters in Iraq in August, which killed 23 people.

Like the Turkey bombings, the Baghdad assault involved a vehicle loaded with explosives. The 2002 attack on a packed nightclub on the Indonesian resort island Bali and recent bombings at housing compounds in Riyadh — which were also blamed on al Qaida — used a similar technique.

“We tell the criminal Bush and his Arab and Western tails — especially Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan — that cars of death will not stop at Baghdad, Riyadh, Istanbul, Nassiriya, Jakarta, etc, until you see them... in the middle of the capital of this era’s tyrant, America,” the statement said.

“(Those) who did not understand what was said by mujahideen leader Sheikh Osama bin Laden before Ramazan when he threatened that martyrdom operations would not stop... this is a golden opportunity to understand the message and withdraw from the Christian alliance against Islam and Muslims.

“And if they do not understand words, then the cars of death will make them understand,” it added.

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