A recent bid to blow up a US plane marks a “new phase” in Al Qaeda’s campaign against the West, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday, before this week’s London talks on Afghanistan and Yemen.
Miliband also said there remained a “very real” danger from violent extremists who will “stop at nothing” after Britain raised its terrorism threat assessment level from substantial to severe on Friday.
His comments came ahead of a meeting on Wednesday on Yemen featuring ministers and officials from 21 countries, called after a 23-year-old Nigerian allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.
The suspect was allegedly trained in Yemen and in a new audio statement on Sunday, Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden claimed the foiled attempt, threatening further strikes on US targets.
The Yemen meeting will be followed on Thursday by a bigger, higher-level conference to which 68 countries have been invited and which will be attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The talks will focus on how to tackle extremism in Yemen and how to stabilise Afghanistan through political as well as military means.
The scale of the problems facing Afghanistan was highlighted on Sunday when the Afghan government postponed parliamentary elections for four months, from May to September. Miliband spoke of the threat posed by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operating in Yemen in an interview with the BBC, saying the country had been “rising on our radar for the last 18 months to two years”.
“The heart of the Al Qaeda senior leadership remains on the Afghan-/Pakistan border,” Miliband said. “But there is a real issue in Yemen — the fact that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula should have tried to strike in Detroit marks a new phase in the campaign and that’s why there’s an important meeting on Yemen on Wednesday”.
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