The Al-Qaida terror network spent less than $50,000 on each of its major attacks except the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings and one of its hallmarks is using readily available items like cell phones and knives as weapons, a U.N. report says.
The report released Thursday by a new team monitoring the implementation of U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban detailed just how little it cost to mount terror operations.
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 cell phones as detonators and cost about $10,000 to carry out. The blasts killed 191 people, Spain’s worst terror attack.
Only the sophisticated attacks in the United States on Sept. 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 Center.
The report said U.N. sanctions have only had “a limited impact,” primarily because the U.N. 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 organization with an established base supporting Afghan fighters run by Osama bin Laden, “to its current manifestation as a loose network of affiliated underground groups” with common goals.
The global network of groups doesn’t wait for orders from above but launches attacks against targets of their 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 said. “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. While they will look for ways to attack high profile targets, soft targets will be equally vulnerable.”
With the exception of the Sept. 11 attacks, al-Qaida’s operations have been inexpensive, the monitoring team said in the report to the Security Council.
The twin nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002 killed 202 people and cost less than $50,000. So did the twin truck bombings of the U.S. 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 $40,000.
U.N. sanctions require all U.N. 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 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 U.N. list.
One of al-Qaida’s “hallmarks” is the simplicity of its methods including the transportation and weapons it uses _ 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 said.
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 said, “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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