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12 January 2005

United States Is al-Qaida's Primary Target, Ridge Says

United States cannot reduce vigilance against terrorist threat

Washington -- The United States is still al-Qaida's primary target, says Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.

"We can't be any less vigilant because the level of intelligence that speaks specifically about us over the past couple of months has been reduced," Ridge said January 12 during a conference in Washington at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I don't think we can lose sight of the fact that, at the end of the day, the United States and our economy and our way of life is still their primary target," he said.

Ridge said a recent decline in terrorist communications about attacks directed at the United States, and instead focused on areas in the Middle East, is not reason to think al-Qaida has lost interest.  That, he said, would be "somewhat illusory."

Rather, it reflects a strategic decision by al-Qaida during a particular period of time to concentrate most of its assets in a particular part of the world, he said.

Ridge, who is scheduled to leave office at the end of this month, said that responding successfully to international terrorism rests in the ability of the world community to work together multilaterally, with open communications and strategic cooperation.

"The most effective course to protect our citizens and our homelands is the course that we pursue together," he said.