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GIA gave 9/11 killers the idea.

Byline: MARK ELLIS, Foreign Editor

OSAMA bin Laden's infamy as the world's most wanted man may be down to an Algerian terror mob.

Seven years before the al-Qaeda chief launched his September 11 attacks, the Armed Islamic Group hatched a remarkably similar plot.

Known by its French acronym GIA, it hijacked an Air France jet on Christmas Eve 1994 and planned to crash it into the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

But French forces stormed the plane at Marseille airport killing four GIA would-be suicide attackers.

Terrorism experts believe the failed plot gave bin Laden the idea for his devastating US assault.

The GIA is a small but ruthless body which thinks nothing of murdering children and old people in its pursuit to create a purely Islamic state. Its youngest victims include a 13-month-old baby.

Since 1992 it has killed more than 100,000 civilians in Algeria and at least 100 Europeans living there.

One GIA leader said foreigners were the "main coronary artery" of a plot to colonise Algeria with non-Muslims. He added: "Killing them is the practical message to weaken the unbeliever rulers."

The GIA has between 200 and 700, mainly young, supporters. Wealthy Algerian expatriates in Europe, including Britain, are suspected of helping fund it.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2003
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