New Al Qaeda Cell A Growing Threat To U.S.

The new faces of terror are militants inside an emerging al Qaeda cell, which U.S. officials warn presents a clear and growing threat to America.

Based in North Africa, the group calling itself "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb" specializes in kidnappings and suicide attacks, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

A car bombing last September of an Algerian military barracks killed 28 people. But, follow-up bombings of a United Nations building and a diplomatic office signaled that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has bigger plans.

"They have devoted an enormous amount of their energy and their resources to try to build this up as a base to try to carry out attacks, not just in North Africa, but ultimately into West Europe and someday against North America," says Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institute.

Riedel, a former CIA official, says a propaganda video - just posted on a jihad website - shows a sophisticated attack capability.

But, the most lethal aspect of AQIM - and its real value for Osama bin Laden's terror network - goes beyond firepower.

Says Ambassador Dell Dailey, a U.S. Department of State Counterterrorism official: "Leaders of al Qaeda and its affiliates are extremely interested in recruiting terrorists from and deploying terrorists to Europe, people familiar with our Western cultures that can travel freely."

And that's exactly who's being drawn to the AQIM training camps - people who can easily blend in without raising suspicions in Europe or the U.S.

"Some of those people are second, third generation and they now have French, Belgian or Spanish passports and a French, Belgian or Spanish passport is exactly what al Qaeda is looking for because that's their mechanism to get into the United States," Riedel says.

U.S. officials have long worried about British radicals using U.K. passports to bring terror to America. But, now the North African branch of al Qaeda presents a second pipeline - a doubled threat to the homeland.

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