The US is gearing up for a fresh military campaign against terrorism. This time its target is Iraq, its weapons of mass destruction, oil and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Over a year has passed since the terrorist attacks of September 11 and US President George W Bush seems to have forgotten his primary goal: The elimination of the al-Qaeda network, Osama bin Laden and his followers and is now targeting Baghdad.

But the attack in Bali forced Bush and his staff to reconsider their policy. Even though a campaign against Iraq is still a US objective, Washington cannot ignore the increasing terrorist acts planned by fanatics acting in the name of Allah. Earlier, there were two attacks against US army in Kuwait, a bomb exploded in the Philippines and a French tanker was stricken in Yemen.

Now, a group of Islamic rebels from Chechnya is holding many hostages in a Moscow theatre. In their first public communication, Chechen rebels said in a videotape broadcast on the Al-Jazeera satellite channel, the same Arabic television broadcaster favoured by bin Laden, that they had come to the Russian capital to stop the war in Chechnya “or gain martyrdom.” The chilling imagery was all too familiar – black-clad zealots blending the poetic phrases of the Quran with the rhetoric of martyrdom. The parallels to public statements issued by bin Laden and his followers in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks were striking. Like al-Qaeda fighters, the Chechens declared their willingness to die for their cause. Chechens are claiming their objective is solely to free their country from the Russians and, in that case, it is a domestic problem. But this elaborate operation was probably planned abroad, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out. (696)