Al-Qaida spending little on terror attacks: Report27/08/2004 - 07:07:20
The Al-Qaida terror network spent less than €44,600 on each of its major attacks except the September 11 suicide hijackings and one of its hallmarks is using readily-available items like mobile phones and knives as weapons, a new United Nations report says.
The first report released by a new team monitoring the implementation of UN sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban detailed just how little it cost al-Qaida to mount operations – and how most of its attacks involved arms and explosives so unsophisticated they are not covered by the punitive measures.
For example, the report said the March attacks in the Spanish capital, Madrid, in which nearly 10 simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains, used mining explosives and mobile phones as detonators and cost about €8,900 to carry out. The blasts killed 191 people, in Spain’s worst terror attack.
Only the sophisticated attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 using four hijacked aircraft “required significant funding of over six figures”, the report said. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, the vast majority in the collapse of the twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre.
The report says UN sanctions have only had “a limited impact”, primarily because the UN Security Council has reacted to events “while al-Qaida has shown great flexibility and adaptability in staying ahead of them”.
It cited al-Qaida’s transformation from an organisation supporting Afghan fighters run by Osama bin Laden to an initiator and sponsor of terrorism from an established base, “to its current manifestation as a loose network of affiliated underground groups” with common goals.
This global network of groups does not wait for orders from above but launches attacks against targets of its own choosing, using minimal resources and exploiting worldwide publicity “to create an international sense of crisis”, the report said.
“There is no prospect of an early end to attacks from al-Qaida-associated terrorists,” it says. “They will continue to attack targets in both Muslim and non-Muslim states, choosing them according to the resources they have available and the opportunities that occur.”
The report said al-Qaida had promoted “the idea that Islam and the West are now at war”, and appealed to “a widespread sense of resentment and helplessness in the face of the West’s political and economic hegemony”.
With the exception of the September 11 attack, al-Qaida’s operations have been inexpensive, the monitoring team says in the report to the security council.
The twin nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002 killed 202 people and cost less than €44,600. So did the twin truck bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998, which killed 231 people, including 12 Americans, the report said.
And the November 2003 attacks in Istanbul, Turkey – four suicide truck bombings that killed 62 people – cost less than €37,000.
UN sanctions require all member states to impose a travel ban and arms embargo against a list of those linked to the Taliban or al-Qaida, currently 317 individuals and 112 groups, and to freeze any assets. Sanctions were first imposed on Osama bin Laden’s network in 1999.
The report said not a single country reported stopping an arms shipment or banning entry to a Taliban or al-Qaida member on the UN list. Punitive measures to stop the financing of terrorist attacks have had some effect and led to “millions of dollars of assets” being frozen but much more needs to be done to crack down on terrorist-related transactions, especially those going through informal channels, it said.
“As a result of national and international action, al-Qaida’s funding has decreased significantly. But so, too, has its need for money,” the team says.
The number of people in training camps controlled by al-Qaida “is now far less, and al-Qaida no longer pays the $10-$20m (€8.2m - €16.5m) annually that it gave to its Taliban hosts” in Afghanistan before a US-led force routed the government in late 2001, it said.
While some money for the al-Qaida attacks since 1998 may have come from “the centre”, the report said “much of it will have been collected locally, whether through crime or diverted from charitable donations”.
One of al-Qaida’s “hallmarks” is the simplicity of its methods including the transportation and weapons it uses – for example, just small arms and knives in the attack on a residential compound in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in May 2004 that killed 22 people, the report says.
But there is evidence al-Qaida wants to acquire “the means to construct bombs that would disperse chemical, biological or radiological pollutant”, the monitoring team says, “and the threat to use such a device was repeated, albeit obliquely, in a communique from the Abu Hafs Brigade, an al-Qaida offshoot, on July 1, 2004”.
“Al-Qaida related groups have tried at least twice to buy the basic ingredients for a dirty bomb and a good deal of the necessary technical knowledge is available on the internet,” it said.
“There is real need therefore to try to design effective measures against this threat.”
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