Washington: Pakistan’s troubled Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) remain the ideological center of global terror network al-Qaeda, according to a top US intelligence official.

“My definition of core al-Qaeda is the leadership group that has been essentially in the FATA in Pakistan. Clearly, they have been profoundly degraded, not eliminated by any stretch,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing yesterday.

“So that area, in my view, remains the ideological center for al-Qaeda, but not operational center any longer,” Clapper said responding to questions on the presence of core of the terrorist organisation in Pakistan.

Al-Qaeda’s chief Osama bin Laden was killed in a covert US raid in Pakistan’s garrison town of Abbottabad. The whereabouts of his successor Aiyman al-Zawahiri remains unknown, but it’s believed that he is hiding in Pakistan.

“I think an organisation like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, poses a much greater sort of tactical, near-term operational threat to the homeland than does the ideological center of core al-Qaeda in the FATA in Pakistan,” he said.

Clapper refused to discuss the financial network of the Afghan-based militant group Haqqani network.

“I’d assume that the intelligence community tracks the Haqqani financial network, and the banks, and the businesses which support that network. Why haven’t we been able to shut down that financial support?” Senator Carl Levin asked.

Clapper said that some of the al-Qaeda leaders might have moved to Syria.

“Probably of greater concern, as I mentioned in my opening statement, are some al-Qaeda veterans from the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, a small nucleus of them who have also moved to Syria, which has served as a magnet for many of these extremists,” he said.

“They do harbor designs on attacks in Europe and the homeland,” the official added.

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