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UN Expert Says Al-Qaeda Remains Lethal

United Nations, 25 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The chairman of a UN Security Council counter terrorism committee has said that Al-Qaeda remains a potent organization that appears to be successfully recruiting new members.

Chile's UN ambassador, Heraldo Munoz, said today that al-Qaeda is now a diverse, decentralized network of up to 40 groups that has proven its ability to carry out lethal strikes.

"[Al-Qaeda] probably has more members but the organization is less hierarchical and less capable perhaps of perpetrating acts that [its members] were perpetrating before, which doesn't mean that they couldn't hit soft targets as they have been and, I'm afraid, they will continue to hit," Munoz said.

Munoz heads the Security Council committee overseeing sanctions against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He was responding to questions from reporters about a report from a British policy institute saying the U.S.-led war on Iraq has strengthened Al-Qaeda.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies said that Al-Qaeda has more than 18,000 fighters who were dispersed after their training in Afghanistan, and the number is growing.