Al Qaeda continues to command an extensive network of well-financed terrorist operatives in 40 countries and has reopened new training camps in remote eastern Afghanistan to prepare a new generation of Islamic extremists for attacks against the West, according to a United Nations report.
"Let's face it: The sympathy for this organization is actually quite widespread in many countries," Michael Chandler, the chief author of the report, told reporters today.
"New volunteers are making their way to these camps, swelling the numbers of would be al Qaeda activists and the longer term capabilities of the network," the report by a U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against the international terror movement said.
The 40-page report surveys the status of the international war on terrorism. While it credits the United States and other governments with making important strides in breaking up al Qaeda terrorist cells and freezing its financial assets over the past year, it says that those governments have been unable to prevent the organization and other extremist groups from raising enough money -- through religious charities and informal money-changing operations known as hawalas -- to "support major operations" from Bali, Indonesia, to Mombassa, Kenya.
"Al Qaeda has demonstrated its ability to organize attacks over a wide range of targets, . . . indicating the continued mobility and flexibility of the network," the report stated. "And it continues to develop alliances with national or regional extremists groups bent on using terror as their means to their objectives," Chandler added.
Chandler said that his panel had turned up no evidence that Iraq has supplied al Qaeda with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. But he raised concern that al Qaeda may be able to obtain access to such weapons elsewhere, noting recent seizures of black market raw uranium in Tanzania. "No connection has been identified between events in Tanzania and al Qaeda," according to the report. "However, the possibility cannot be excluded of these illegal movements reaching al Qaeda and their associates in East Africa."
Chandler faulted U.N. members for failing to aggressively enforce U.N. sanctions against hundreds of individuals and organizations who appeared on a U.N. list of al Qaeda members and associates. The list, which names more than 320 individuals and entities, provides countries with the legal authority to impose travel and economic sanctions.
The committee reported that many countries have dismissed the travel ban as an empty "political gesture." And it questioned why the United States and other U.N. members had failed to place the names of suspected terrorists either identified by governments or by the news media on the U.N. terrorist watch list. The committee published the names of 104 individuals who have come under scrutiny in recent months. "Should they be on the list, or shouldn't they?" Chandler asked.
The report noted that the four individuals named on the FBI's most wanted list of terrorists -- Imad Fayez Mugniyah, Ahmad Ibrahim al-Mugahassil, Ali Saed bin Ali el-Hoorie and Ibrahim Salih Mohammed al-Yacoub -- have not been placed on the U.N.'s list of suspected terrorists.
Richard Grenell, the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, could not explain why the names were not on the list. But he said that the Bush administration has placed more names on the list than any other country. "We are the leader in adding names and in maintaining the list," he said. "We are vigilant."