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UN: Experts Warn Of New Terrorist Training Camps In Afghanistan

  • Robert McMahon

United Nations, 18 December 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A new report from United Nations experts says there are signs of renewed activity in terrorist training camps in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan. The UN group monitoring sanctions against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban said in its latest report, released yesterday, that it has received information about a number of new, small, and "very simple" training camps.

The group's chairman, Michael Chandler, told reporters the camps appear to be located near Asadabad, a town north of Jalalabad. He said U.S.-led antiterrorism-coalition forces in Afghanistan are aware of the camps but that the terrorists using them are not easy to detect. "[The terrorists] are conscious of the fact that the coalition forces have extremely good surveillance capabilities these days, and therefore it is unlikely they would have anything that would stand out. They would keep it as small as possible and as discreet and as mobile as possible," Chandler said.

Chandler said the expert group is alarmed by the prospect of new recruits joining a terrorist network that has already trained many people who are still at large. "What is actually happening is [that] more young men who are disillusioned and perhaps have a feeling for Al-Qaeda -- and let's face it, the sympathy for this organization is actually quite widespread in many countries -- are happy to turn up and be trained. They believe it's the thing they should be doing," Chandler said.

The UN expert group, formed nearly one year ago, has been assigned by the UN Security Council to monitor efforts by member states to freeze the assets of Al-Qaeda and its associates and to institute a travel ban and an arms embargo.

The group's latest report says states have made progress in disrupting Al-Qaeda's finances and breaking up its cells. But it says the terrorist group still receives uninterrupted flows of funding and many of its operatives remain at large, developing alliances with national or regional extremist groups.

Monitoring the arms embargo has proven especially difficult, Chandler said, because of Al-Qaeda's global nature. He said the expert group is recommending to Security Council members that Afghanistan become the focus of an arms embargo because of clear indications that Al-Qaeda members are easily able to obtain weapons there.

Chandler said such an embargo would not include the Afghan government's armed forces, bona fide security forces, and law-enforcement agencies. "This, we believe, will be a useful measure to reduce the availability to Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the Taliban, who are also featured in [Security Council Resolution] 1390, [and] who are clearly regularly engaging with coalition forces and, from reports, receiving new weapons and ammunition," Chandler said.

The UN experts also raised concern over the potential for Al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear materials and build a dirty bomb.

Chandler said the group has no evidence showing a link between Al-Qaeda and Iraq. But he said it's concerned about proliferation of weapons of mass destruction from other areas based on films, training manuals, and other documents seized in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. "You don't have to go to Iraq to get hold of items which can be used in this way. There's plenty of it around in other parts of the world and probably even more easily obtainable," Chandler said.

The expert group's report also says a number of countries, which it did not name, have been reluctant to submit names to the Security Council committee set up to monitor sanctions against Al-Qaeda. The official UN list of individuals and entities associated with Al-Qaeda has more than 300 names but many are missing, according to the expert group's report.

The report includes a list of more than 100 people suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda, and it asks member states to provide information on those named. The list includes Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose supporters are suspected in a number of attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year.

Any country can forward a name of a suspect to the Security Council committee.

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