Al-Qaeda Militants Leaving Pakistan for Yemen, Somalia

Dozens have left, US officials say
By Sarah Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2009 7:48 AM CDT
Supporters of a Pakistani religious group chant slogans during a rally in in Lahore, Pakistan, against the Taliban and condemn suspected US drone attacks in the tribal areas on May 3, 2009.   (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)
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(Newser) – Al-Qaeda fighters from Pakistan have started leaving isolated tribal areas and moving far afield to Somalia and Yemen, the New York Times reports. Some US officials point to stepped up drone attacks against militants in Pakistan for the development, which involves relatively small numbers so far. But the growth of jihadist campaigns in  Somalia and Yemen—both countries where the government is weak—is another explanation. "I am very worried about growing safe havens," said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The movement is good and bad for the US. Right now, the fight against al-Qaeda focuses on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it would be hard to change direction quickly. And there are reports of militants helping each other. “They’re asking, ‘What do you need? Financing? Fighters?’ ” a US official said. But if fighters leave protected Pashtun tribal areas or start communicating with those who have, the US could have a better chance of picking up intelligence.