Algeria gas facility attack fuels jihadist rivalry
January 30th, 2013
04:47 PM ET

Algeria gas facility attack fuels jihadist rivalry

By Paul Cruickshank

The deadly attack on the In Amenas gas facility in southern Algeria could herald a power struggle within al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, which is fast becoming one of the most dangerous branches of the organization.

The attack was claimed by veteran Algerian jihadist Moktar Belmoktar, who last year was forced out of AQIM's leadership by its emir, Abdelmalek Droukdel. Their rivalry has been aggravated by geographic distance, disagreement over jihadist doctrine, and - above all - personal ambition. At one point, Droukdel tried to have Belmoktar assassinated, a former jihadist from the region told CNN.

The rift between them not only led Belmoktar to mastermind one of the most serious terrorist attacks in North Africa in years, but may also dictate the future course of jihad in the region, the sources say.

In September, Droukdel "fired" Belmoktar from the AQIM leadership, and he responded by setting up what one of his close associates described as a new trans-Saharan franchise of al Qaeda. Nearly all the men under his command were said to have followed Belmoktar out of AQIM.

In December, Belmoktar announced the formation of a new commando unit called "We Sign with Blood," and he promised attacks against Western interests in the region and the home soil of Western countries if an operation was launched against jihadists in northern Mali.

The name of the new commando unit was first used by a unit of an Algerian militant outfit that hijacked a French airliner in 1994, according to Camille Tawil, a Lebanese expert on al Qaeda. FULL POST

U.S.: North Korean nuclear test 'soon'
An undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on January 27, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attending a consultative meeting of officials in the fields of state security and foreign affairs at an undisclosed location in North Korea.
January 30th, 2013
02:40 PM ET

U.S.: North Korean nuclear test 'soon'

By Barbara Starr and Elise Labott

The United States believes North Korea is ready "at any time" to conduct a nuclear test, American officials tell CNN.

"We think they are preparing for a test," one U.S. official told CNN Wednesday. "We are watching it all as closely as we can."

U.S. officials say they are bracing for a third test by Pyongyang "soon," although they caution it's near impossible to predict the timing.

READ: How close is North Korea to a nuclear missile?

"One thing for sure," a senior official told CNN. "They will definitely test a nuclear weapon. But the tricky thing is, nobody can tell you for your day planner that is when it will be."

One official explained the United States is not certain about the timing of a test because it would happen underground and the final preparations can't be observed by satellite.

Clinton warns Egypt collapse would devastate the region
Egyptians protesters carrying a wounded youth during clashes near Cairo's Tahrir Square on January 28, 2013.
January 30th, 2013
12:38 PM ET

Clinton warns Egypt collapse would devastate the region

By Jamie Crawford

As the political turmoil in Egypt continues, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she's concerned about an Egyptian military official's assertion that the current situation could lead to the collapse of the Egyptian state.

"I think that would lead to incredible chaos and violence on a scale that would be devastating for Egypt and the region," Clinton said in a CNN interview Tuesday at the State Department. "There has to be some understanding by the new government that the aspirations that the people were expressing during the revolution in Egypt have to be taken seriously. And it - it cannot in any way be overlooked that there is a large number of Egyptians who are not satisfied with the direction of the economy and the political reform."

Thousands of anti-government protesters have clashed with police and troops in three Egyptian cities, and defied President Mohamed Morsy's curfew orders. Demonstrators are upset with recent political moves by Morsy, and charge that the country's first democratically elected president is a throwback to former dictatorships.

Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's defense minister, warned Tuesday that continued instability could have grave consequences.

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Filed under: Egypt • Hillary Clinton • Mohamed Morsey