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PM Clarifies Zaoui/FIS/Terror Confusion

PM Clarifies Zaoui/FIS/Terror Confusion

By Kevin List

"Hacene ALLANE, Kamel DJERMANE, Dhou EL-AICH and Ahmad ZERFAOUI all have ties to the terrorist organisation Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) and were involved in the kidnapping of 32 tourists in south-east Algeria between February and March of 2003. Jamel LOUNICI is also involved in the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) and has been associated to the outlawed Islamist Algerian political party, Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). He is also thought to be the coordinator of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) networks in Europe. All these groups have ties to al-Qaeda. The Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) and the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) are currently designated within New Zealand as terrorist entities. LOUNICI headed a cell which included the remaining ten individuals. These ten individuals have been convicted in Italy of crimes that include assisting illegal immigrants to enter Italy and using them to transmit instructions to terrorist groups operating in other European countries."

- PM Lists Terrorist Entities – PR 13 September 2004

The Prime Minister today sought to clarify the confusion that has resulted from the above paragraph contained in a recent New Zealand Government listing of terrorist groups that seemed to link detained refugee Ahmed Zaoui's political party, the Islamic Salvation Front (or FIS), with Al –Qaeda.

In her weekly post cabinet press conference this afternoon the PM stated:

"I haven't been able to corroborate police advice to me about the FIS. I think it probably got caught up in that statement with other aspects of the individual's [Jamel LOUNICI] association's with for example the Armed Islamic Group which is designated as a terrorist entity. The police are now looking into why the statement was drafted the way it was."

As the FIS is not actually designated as a terrorist organization, and being a member of the FIS is not actually illegal in Australia, the US or continental Europe, the wording supplied by the police had the potential for some confusion and embarrassment.

The Prime Minister sought to clarify the situation by implying the statement may have been rather too enthusiastically drafted.

"Now it is probably drawing too long a bow in the statement to say that because he [Jamel LOUNICI] was linked with the FIS, that there was also a direct link [between the FIS] with Al-Qaeda as an organisation."

This confusion led to a reporter from Newstalk ZB asking if somehow the statement that referred to Mr Lounici might mean the unfortunate Mr Zaoui was somehow linked to a terrorist organisation.

The Prime Minister was able to clarify this particular misconception, "I've never said there was a connection between him [Ahmed Zaoui] and Al Qaeda."

On whether the non-AlQaeda linked Mr Zaoui would be able to move to a less restrictive environment than prison the PM equivocated.

Ms Clark said officials were still studying the Court of Appeal decisions (issued on Friday) that pointed out that it is possible for the Government to amend immigration regulations - whilst the security risk certificate process is still in progress - and thereby move Mr Zaoui to a more humane form of detention.

"As Mr Parker [TV3 Political Editor] alluded - it [the Court of Appeal] invited the Government to consider whether it wished to change the regulations. That's something we will look at as we consider the whole decision," she said.

**** ENDS ****

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