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Homeland Security

UN warns despite progress, Al-Qaida still poses significant threat

26 June Despite significant progress in the fight against Al-Qaida, the terrorist group blamed for the 11 September 2001 attacks against the United States still poses a significant threat to international peace and security including possible use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), according to a United Nations draft report released today.

Calling on all states to tighten their controls to cut-off all access to financing and weapons materials, the first report of the Monitoring Group on Al-Qaida established by the UN Security Council warns of potential nuclear, radioactive, chemical and biological assaults by the group as well as the poisoning of water networks.

It notes such recent successes as the arrest of members of Usama bin Laden's original command team, Sheikh Mohammed, Yasir al-Jaziri, Waleed bin Attash and other senior lieutenants, leading to the break-up of cells in a number of countries, but adds that recent events such as bombings in Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, Morocco and Afghanistan show Al-Qaida's continuing threat.

"We have a long way to go," Ambassador Heraldo Munoz of Chile, Chairman of the Security Council Committee on Al Qaida sanctions and Michael Chandler, Chairman of the Monitoring Group, told a news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

"In order to reduce the chances of Al-Qaida obtaining a nuclear device, special efforts must be undertaken to insure that all countries which possess nuclear weapons maintain the strictest controls and security regimes at all times," the reports stresses. "These regimes should be constantly subject to audit and scrutiny."

There is a much higher probability, it adds, that the network will continue its efforts to develop an Improvised Radiological Dispersion Device (IRDD) - a so-called "dirty bomb" that produces a huge psychological effect out of all proportion to its physical effects by sowing panic. Sabotage of nuclear facilities and radioactive sources is also a possibility.

The Monitoring Group, therefore, "as the first line of defence against such a threat, strongly urges Member States to join the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), including states which, though they have no domestic nuclear programme, are used as transit routes for nuclear materials," the report says.

It adds that the Group is "very concerned" by the potential for attacks on chemical production facilities as well as biological assaults. "Nobody knows exactly what kind of toxins or virus may be in the hands of the terrorists or that they may attempt to acquire. Consequently, all scenarios are possible, even the most shocking ones," it states.

The report strongly recommends that States which have not already done so sign and ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Biological and Toxin Weapons convention (BTWC) and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material as well as taking all steps necessary to criminalize terrorist financing.

Despite new laws, regulations and procedures adopted by Member States to better identify and deter terrorism financing, Al-Qaida "is still able to exploit loopholes and has developed new techniques to acquire, utilize and distribute funds and logistical resources" from the illicit drug trade, through charities and from deep pocket donors for indoctrination, recruitment, and training, the reports says.

"The efforts to curb financing of the Al-Qaida network are far from over. Many of the Al-Qaida sources of funding have yet to be uncovered and frozen," it adds despite the $125 million in terrorist-related financial assets so far frozen worldwide.

"Many experts believe that this is only 'the tip of the iceberg,'" it says of the charities so far closed down.

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