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Al-Qaeda threatens to escalate attacks in North Africa


Al-Qaeda threatened in an Internet statement on Monday to escalate attacks against the "enemies of Allah" in North African countries, warning Muslims to stay away from government sites.

"The Mujahedin (holy warriors)... have many hidden surprises for the enemies of Allah in the countries of the Islamic Maghreb, which will come in an escalating sequence," said the Al-Qaeda Movement in the Islamic Countries of the Maghreb.

"We call upon all our Muslim brothers to stay away from the centres of the infidels and official apostates, as well as security (gatherings) of army and police," it added in the statement posted on a website used by Islamic militant groups.

"The Mujahedin are determined to target their quarters, centres and barracks with all available means of detonation, bombing and demolition," added the statement whose authenticity could not be verified.

The statement also claimed that many attacks on military targets had been cancelled "only due to the presence of Muslims."

The group -- formerly the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) -- last week claimed it had killed or wounded "no less than 25" Algerian troops in three coordinated attacks in Algeria's Kabylie region.

It also claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing this month on an Algerian army barracks near Lakhdaria, 80 kilometres (50 miles) east of the capital, which killed 10 soldiers and injured 35.

Together with bombings in neighbouring Morocco, the attacks in Algeria have revived Western fears of Islamist militants gaining a foothold in North Africa from where they could launch attacks into Europe and beyond.

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