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On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain

Obama has tied an Iraq withdrawal to increased forces in Afghanistan and the ability to fund domestic programs. The continued fight in Iraq "means we can't provide health care to people who need it," Obama said in his first debate with McCain.

"Nobody is talking about losing this war," Obama said of Iraq. "What we are talking about is recognizing that the next president has to have broader strategic vision."

It is not the first time al-Qaeda and its allies have weighed in on a Western election. Bin Laden released a video message Oct. 29, 2004, days before the U.S. presidential election, warning of plans for further attacks on U.S. targets. Some strategists for Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the Democratic nominee, have said the timing of the message tipped the balance toward Bush, who defined himself as the anti-terrorism candidate.

The deadly train bombings in Spain that year were seen as an attempt by al-Qaeda to bring down then-Prime Minister José María Aznar, who had sent troops to Iraq. Aznar lost his reelection bid three days after the bombing.

Recent polls suggest that Iraq and terrorism are less important to most Americans than the economy. Still, terrorism experts have warned that al-Qaeda may indeed launch a major strike before the U.S. election or shortly afterward.

"The idea of testing a new president or hitting us when we're off-balance is enormously attractive to them," said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University terrorism expert.

Staff researchers Madonna Lebling and Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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