Al-Qaida in league with Mexican radicals

Al-Qaida in league with Mexican radicals in plot to penetrate U.S., says MI6 report

Britain's secret intelligence service, MI6, has established the first proof al-Qaida is playing a major role in the new Cold War between North and South America � with Osama bin Laden's terror network seeing itself in league with Mexican subversives in infiltrating the U.S. border.

The evidence emerged as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez swash-buckled into London after scoring a win in yet another venomous battle with Washington for influence and economic advantage across the Latin American continent.

In the words of a MI6 memo, the situation "is a new and dangerous threat to stability that is also being exploited by al-Qaida."

Details of al-Qaeda's penetration into Latin America emerged from documents discovered during recent anti-terrorist operations in Pakistan to try and locate Osama bin Laden.

The documents included evidence that al-Qaida has established links with the Colombian terror group, FARC, and the Shining Path, SL, in Peru. They also reveal al-Qaida's links with thousands of Muslim students in the Dominican Republic.

Another Pakistani document shows the links between al-Qaida and Mexico's Popular Revolutionary Army, EPR. The documents reveal that al-Qaida sees EPR as collaborators in attacks in Mexico on foreign targets � "especially those of the United States and Britain." It also says that EPR can play a key role in allowing al-Qaida operatives to enter the United States through the busiest land crossing in the world � Tijuana.

Another document reveals that along Peru's border with Chile "a large Arab community is providing substantial sums of money for al-Qaida."

But the closest links al-Qaida has are with Venezuela. Exploiting Chavez's latest tirade against the Bush administration, al-Qaida is firmly entrenched in the country.

The documents discovered in Pakistan have become of prime concern to MI6 � given Britain's substantial holdings in Latin America. These could be seriously damaged by what one MI6 officer called "Chavez and his rogue's gallery of sinister wannabees and corrupt opportunists."

Chavez has so far spectacularly avoided Washington's efforts to curb his ambitions. He has warned Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, "I sting those who rattle me."

It is over threats like that MI6 analysts try to decipher how far Chavez will allow al-Qaida to be his sting master.

Already MI6 say that Venezuela is now one of the main conduits for trafficking drugs to Europe � and al-Qaida is a major player.

Deep inside their headquarters overlooking the River Thames, the MI6 analysts work in a room that is accessed by a swipe card, the codes of which change regularly.

The room houses the Terrorist Attack Assessment Center. Inside its computer-lined walls and state-of-the-art communications, analysts sit at workstations around the clock. TAAC is directly linked to the Pentagon and the CIA. Both have their versions of TAAC.

The MI6 department regularly updates its director general, John Scarlett. He is the quintessential English spymaster. In his customized suits and hand-stitched cotton shirts, he has a touch of the James Bond about his sartorial elegance.

He is taking a close interest in the documents that indicate how al-Qaida sees Latin America as a continent where it can expand its activities.

MI6 analysts have established that the documents are the work of Ayman al-Zawahiri, a founder member of al-Qaida and accepted by Western intelligence services as its prime strategist next to bin Laden.

Al-Zawahiri studied in Paris and London to become a recognized authority in behavioral psychology. After graduating from Cairo University he traveled widely.

An MI6 file confirms a Mossad profile of the heavily bearded psychiatrist � that he is arrogant and takes an obsessive pleasure watching film of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 � when he first emerged from the shadows to sit alongside bin Laden.

Both MI6 and Mossad believe al-Zawahiri made several visits to Latin America during the last decade.

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