Muslim extremists, enemies seek popularity

June 16, 2004 at 12:55 PM

WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- The battle between al-Qaida and officials in Kabul, Baghdad and Riyadh is now a battle for support from Afghanis, Iraqis and Saudi Arabians, experts say.

All three countries are clearly facing violence perpetrated by al-Qaida and related Islamic extremists seeking "to drive a wedge" between governments and the population, says James Phillips, a Middle East expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Evidence of that wedge tactic can be seen in the way al-Qaida and its enemies are trying harder to limit the public outcry that may result from indiscriminate violence, the Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday.

"The government needs the support from the public to do anything against the perpetrators of violence, and the extremists realize this, which is why we see them changing tactics from indiscriminate bombings to very targeted attacks," says Matthew Levitt, a former FBI counterterrorism official and Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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