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U.S. calls Al Qaeda a "global franchise organization"

In a news conference, U.S. Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, suggested Al Qaeda had evolved into a global franchise organization. The terror organization, Mr Gates contended, had lost its capacity to centrally control its operations.

But its cells in Iraq were still taking strategic guidance and advice from Osama Bin Laden's organization in western Pakistan.

The Defence Secretary said the success of the U.S. strategy in Iraq would be assessed in September.

In the meantime, the U.S. Senate has voted to double the bounty on Osama bin Laden to 50 million U.S. dollars. The increase comes amid reports that al Qaeda is regaining strength. The legislation needs to be approved by the House of Representatives and the President.

Meanwhile, in Australia, police have charged an Indian doctor linked to the attempted car bomb attacks in Britain in June. Mohamed Haneef has spent the last twelve days in custody. He is alleged to have provided support to the terror group through recklessness, rather than intentionally, in particular by letting them use his mobile phone.

Mohamed Haneef is one of six Indian doctors questioned in Australia for suspected involvement in the plot.

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