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Rising terror threat from Syria, Africa: U.S. spy chief

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Syria's civil war serves as a "huge magnet" for terror groups, while sub-Saharan Africa has become a "hothouse" for extremists, U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper warned Wednesday.

Presenting an annual intelligence assessment, Clapper described a mounting danger from "globally dispersed" violent extremists from the Middle East to Africa aligned or inspired by al-Qaida, even as the terror group's core leadership has been steadily weakened in Pakistan.

The raging conflict between President Bashar al-Assad's regime and rebel forces has lured al-Qaida-linked militants to Syria, where they could possibly prepare to mount attacks on the West, Clapper said.

"Syria has become a huge magnet for extremists" who can now recruit, train and equip a growing number of militants there, he told the Senate Intelligence Committee.

America's intelligence agencies estimated that there were about 26,000 fighters deemed to be "extremists" operating in Syria out of a total opposition force of 75,000 to 110,000, Clapper said.

The conflict had attracted roughly 7,000 foreign volunteers from some 50 countries, mostly in the Middle East and Europe.

The presence of the hardline militants was of "tremendous concern" among U.S. allies, particularly European governments, which fear foreign fighters will return home to carry out attacks, the US spy chief added.

"We're seeing now the appearance of training complexes in Syria to train people to go back to their countries, and, of course, conduct more terrorist acts," he said.

Clapper compared Syria to the semi-autonomous tribal belt in northwest Pakistan, which has served as a sanctuary for the Taliban and members of al-Qaida.

He also offered a warning on advances in Syria's biological weapons program.

Although Syria has agreed to eliminate its large arsenal of chemical weapons, the regime now may have the ability to produce biological weapons on a limited scale.

"We judge that some elements of Syria's biological warfare program might have advanced beyond the research and development stage and might be capable of limited agent production, based on the duration of its longstanding program," Clapper said in written testimony.

Clapper offered no further details, but it was the first time officials had stated publicly that spy agencies believed Syria had made strides in its biological program.

Neither Assad nor the rebel groups appeared able to achieve a decisive victory on the battlefield in the next six months, said Clapper, adding that the war would further foment Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions across the region.

With the civil war having a spillover effect on Lebanon and Iraq, Baghdad faces a growing challenge from al-Qaida militants who seized ground in western Anbar province.

Iraq's course will hinge on how the Shiite-led government confronts al-Qaida's local affiliate and how it handles strained relations with the country's "disenfranchised Sunni population," Clapper said.

He said America's 16 intelligence agencies suspected sub-Saharan Africa would "almost certainly" experience more security turmoil this year, as the region has become an incubator for extremists.

"The continent has become a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups, which increasingly launch deadly asymmetric attacks, and which government forces often cannot effectively counter due to a lack of capability and sometimes will," Clapper told senators in writing.

Countries in the Sahel region, including Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania, face terror threats due to their backing of a French military intervention in Mali launched a year ago.

A power vacuum in Libya, where the government is struggling to counter well-armed militias, is fueling extremist groups inside the country and across the Sahel, posing an "acute" terror threat, Clapper said.

"Regional terrorist organizations exploit Libya's porous borders and massive amounts of loose conventional weapons, further destabilizing the country and the Maghreb and Sahel region," he said in a written statement.

The annual report from the intelligence community addressed Ukraine's dramatic political standoff, describing President Viktor Yanukovych as "firmly intent" to hold on to power.

The Ukrainian leader appeared prepared to resort to force or other illegal means to prevail against popular protests, according to Clapper.

A Russian aid package to Ukraine signed in December will prevent a financial crisis in the "short term" but will increase Kiev's dependence on Moscow and leave it vulnerable to Russian pressure, he wrote.

© (c) 2014 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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Thank you Captain Obvious, you've now been promoted to Major Know-it-all....

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

The president of United Sates and then secretary of state should apology to the syrian people for their reckless attempt of using that dangerous "Regieme change by using other's blood" or better known as the 'Jasmine revolutions 2011' that has caused so much sufferings in the hands of those so called "extremeists" or "Not so extremeists" militants!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Terror threat?

The biggest threat to liberty is the US with its phony wars on 'terror'

The US is the most aggressive source of terror in history that this world has ever seen....

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The next war for oil

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Do we really believe this rhetoric, Clapper , are they still listening to him, there is a motion in the house to get him fired , but it seems the President is standing by him (I wonder why) The biggest threat to all Americans come from those in power, not terrorists, and now the people are starting to realise, but then I think they already knew.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Terror threat?

Yes, radical Islamists, Jihadists.

The biggest threat to liberty is the US with its phony wars on 'terror'

That would be the person occupying the White House now.

The US is the most aggressive source of terror in history that this world has ever seen....

I think you're confusing that with radical Islam, but we got that covered.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Amazing that after all these years, given one fluke attack on America, that people still believe these filthy jihadists in rags and sandals in the M.E. and Africa are a credible threat to the U.S.

The only winners here are the wanna-be terrorists, since they still somehow manage to terrorize America from fly ridden dust holes, and the makers of bombs, missiles and terror drones also win big in both tax dollars and in the tally of dead innocents.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Amazing that after all these years, given one fluke attack on America, that people still believe these filthy jihadists in rags and sandals in the M.E. and Africa are a credible threat to the U.S.

And Obama believes that a big chunk of Americans that don't like him is because he's black, amazing!

The only winners here are the wanna-be terrorists, since they still somehow manage to terrorize America from fly ridden dust holes, and the makers of bombs, missiles and terror drones also win big in both tax dollars and in the tally of dead innocents.

Don't forget "killing many of these rag tag top jihadists leaders, which suits me fine, more please. On that, I gladly pay my tax money, because I know it's going to a good cause.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Obama believes that a big chunk of Americans that don't like him is because he's black, amazing!

Where did he say that?

Seems more likely that you made that up than that Obama claimed it. Which would make your statement amazing, not the contents of it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Seems more likely that you made that up than that Obama claimed it. Which would make your statement amazing, not the contents of it.

Excuse me, liberals, which Obama is a part of, is he not? The point to the argument was there IS a terror threat out there, whether you liberals believe it or not, just as liberals constantly use the race card to make a point, don't agree with the president or his policies, you are a racist, both are real scenarios.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Obama is a centrist, not a liberal.

And yes, the liberals point out that many republicans don't like him because he is black. But Obama is too diplomatic to say that even if he does think it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

And yes, the liberals point out that many republicans don't like him because he is black. But Obama is too diplomatic to say that even if he does think it.

Then he is a Centrist Socialist, that's putting it more accurately. And many liberals give him a pass on EVERYTHING right or wrong because he's black, but he's not diplomatic enough to be humble about that either. Obama is getting mostly star treatment because he's black. And the majority of conservatives DO NOT hate Obama because he's black, they hate him because of his failed No good policies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Then he is a Centrist Socialist, that's putting it more accurately.

So am I, which is I suppose why I like him so much.

And many liberals give him a pass on EVERYTHING right or wrong because he's black

I think many democrats give him a pass on everything not because he is black, but because they are sick of the republicans shooting down every last thing he says. If the republicans weren't causing a fuss over every little thing, I think you would see the democrats causing a lot more fuss about some of Obama's policies. But there is something to be said for supporting your president to some degree for the good of the country, even if you don't agree to all his policies. The republicans seem to have forgotten that with this president, and so he has had zero support on any policy in his entire presidency. Probably the first president ever to face that degree of opposition. The fact that he has managed to get anything done, when the opposition's primary goal has been to tank his presidency, is impressive in itself.

With only 20% of the American population being black, it's not likely that people are giving him a pass because he is black. Even amongst the democrats, there are still a lot of people who have racial biases - we are speaking of America after all.

Obama is getting mostly star treatment because he's black. And the majority of conservatives DO NOT hate Obama because he's black, they hate him because of his failed No good policies.

So you are saying one side only likes him because he is black, and the other side dislikes him for every reason except that he is black. Do you realize how illogical that statement is?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Don't forget "killing many of these rag tag top jihadists leaders, which suits me fine, more please. On that, I gladly pay my tax money, because I know it's going to a good cause.

Its going to a do nothing useful cause, unless you think inciting hate against the U.S. so that more jihadists sign up is useful. And let us not forget about the murdered women and children who apparently threatened you by doing things like going to wedding parties. (Dec. 2013 Radda, Yemen. Are we at war with Yemen?)

Nasser al-Awlaki, a Yemeni scholar whose son and 16 year old grandson were killed by a drone said this:

I urge the American people to bring the killers to justice. I urge them to expose the hypocrisy of the 2009 Nobel Prize laureate. To some, he may be that. To me and my family, he is nothing more than a child killer.

But some, more dead kids means more jihadis means more drones means money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@strangerland

I> think many democrats give him a pass on everything not because he is black, but because they are sick of the republicans shooting down every last thing he says. If the republicans weren't causing a fuss over every little thing, I think you would see the democrats causing a lot more fuss about some of Obama's policies. But there is something to be said for supporting your president to some degree for the good of the country, even if you don't agree to all his policies. The republicans seem to have forgotten that with this president, and so he has had zero support on any policy in his entire presidency. Probably the first president ever to face that degree of opposition. The fact that he has managed to get anything done, when the opposition's primary goal has been to tank his presidency, is impressive in itself.

First off, no one cares about Obama's skin color. Regardless of political affiliation. That's just an excuse that liberals like bring up time and time and time again, they just object to his horrible policies. When people and the left went after Bush, they called him every name in the book and still today when you Google chimp, you get more hatred, more vitriol towards the man, but if you say those words to Obama, now you are a racist? So why does he get a pass? Why can't people dislike him for his policies? Liberals just can't or don't want to accept that there are a lot of conservative minorities out there and they don't have to all agree on one ideology. It's all about his job performance. When they suck that bad, who's going to support you? That's another problem with Liberals. Support Obama no matter what! Jump off a cliff with him if you have to! They will never forget how how nasty, inconsiderate and selfish this president was and continues to be, now Obama. Can never expect until the end of his term that, the Republicans will work with him on anything. Obama had more than enough chances to do so, but as typical stubborn he is, he chose not to. And now they feel the same about him. Obama is THE most divisive president this countries ever had.

@sugar bowl

Its going to a do nothing useful cause, unless you think inciting hate against the U.S. so that more jihadists sign up is useful. And let us not forget about the murdered women and children who apparently threatened you by doing things like going to wedding parties. (Dec. 2013 Radda, Yemen. Are we at war with Yemen?)

If you think the hate started recently, you are sadly mistaken. The jihadist have for over 30 years declared war against the US. And don't give me the same sob story about people being killed, I can say the exact opposites about innocent soldiers, heck, their own people. How about that it's perfectly ok for Yemenies men to marry off girls that are 14 or sometimes younger. What the heck is that? Pushed off, forced into marriage like some cheap... Where is your outrage about that? Nope, as usual, the typical silence! Don't bomb terrorists, but it's ok to allow a child to marry some old pervert!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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