ALGIERS, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Allegations that the CIA station chief in Algiers drugged and raped Muslim women may hurt efforts by President Barack Obama to improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world, Algerian dailies said on Saturday.
"Sex, rape and video at the U.S. embassy in Algiers," wrote Algeria’s most influential French-language newspaper El Watan in a front page headline.
The U.S. government has said the CIA chief in Algiers had returned to Washington and the Justice Department was probing the officer’s alleged misconduct.
ABC news was the first to report that two Algerian women had complained they had been separately drugged and sexually abused by the CIA officer at his official residence in September 2007 and February 2008.
Algerian newspapers on Saturday printed the officer’s picture and gave details about his work in Algiers and his previous postings in Egypt and Afghanistan.
"(His) misconduct could have a disastrous impact on America’s image at a time when the new U.S. president is trying to give a new start to America’s relations with Muslim countries," said el Watan.
"Diplomacy of kidnapping, rape, terror, and spying," said Arabic language Eshorouk, Algeria’s top selling daily.
"This is not the best way to reward the host country...but the scandal could be added to a series of misconduct in which ‘foreign hands’ have been involved in the past," it added in reference to statements by Algeria’s officials that outside influence fanned violence in the country.
The newspapers said the CIA officer was a convert to Islam.
"He used to practice the Friday prayer at Algiers mosques including in working-class neighborhoods like Bachdjarah, and El Harach where al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb tries to hire its militants," said Ennahar, which specializes in security news.
Al Qaeda’s north Africa wing posted several statements on the Internet last year saying that it would not stop its attacks until Algeria was free from French and U.S. influence and what it called the "apostate" Algerian government was removed.
Since adopting the al Qaeda name early in 2007, the group, previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, has claimed several attacks, including twin suicide bombings of U.N. offices and a court building in Algiers in December 2007 which killed more than 40 people. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; editing by Dominic Evans)