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Afghanistan: UN Panel Urges Greater Effort To Block Funds, Arms From Al-Qaeda

United Nations, 6 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A United Nations expert panel has urged greater international cooperation to block support for the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The UN Monitoring Group on Al-Qaeda issued the call yesterday at a news conference that provided further details on its latest report to the UN Security Council, which has yet to be formally released.

Panel Chairman Michael Chandler said many countries have made progress in their ability to track and thwart the efforts of Al-Qaeda. But he said the group still has sufficient money and weapons to launch terrorist attacks throughout the world. "We cannot overstate the risks posed by Al-Qaeda, nor should we understate the complexity of the tasks that remain in cutting off its funding."

The UN panel says members of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban continue to move undetected across international boundaries, particularly in countries bordering Afghanistan. It says they have sought shelter and hiding places in neighboring countries, or are transiting these countries to take up positions elsewhere.

The UN experts cite growing indications of the concentration of Al-Qaeda in North Africa, the Middle East, and Central, Southern and Southeast Asia. They also note credible reports that Al-Qaeda members have sought to travel to Europe via established illegal immigration routes, including those extending from Central Asia and from the Balkans into the rest of Europe.

An American expert on the UN panel, Victor Comras, said the panel has based much of its information on the individual revelations made by governments in their crackdowns on Al-Qaeda: "We know that significant sums [of money] continue to move. We know that significant numbers of persons have moved from the original theater of operation in Afghanistan and in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region back to their countries of origin and in many cases repositioning themselves in other countries."

The UN Security Council last autumn adopted a tough resolution requiring member states to track down and prosecute suspected terrorists and eliminate means of financial support. A number of countries are still attempting to revise their legal systems to comply with the resolution and this, says Chandler, is one of the efforts that needs to be hastened.

Chandler says the expert panel also recommends improved sharing of information among states, especially on financial matters related to Al-Qaeda. He says governments also need to overcome their reluctance to investigate Islamic charities, which he called a key source of funding for the terrorist group.

He said the informal system of money transfer used in primarily Islamic states, known as hawala, also needs to be regulated to block another avenue used in terrorist funding.

Chandler said monitoring the arms embargo against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban is the expert group's most challenging task. There have been numerous reports about Al-Qaeda and Taliban members on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan who continue to receive new weapons and ammunition.

Chandler said the southern Kandahar region and nearby provinces that border Pakistan have proven the most difficult to police for arms control: "It is an area where it is very easy for weapons, people and other things to move. You only have to spend a few hours in the area to see how easy it is."

To combat the arms traffic into Afghanistan, the expert group is calling on UN member states to adopt measures criminalizing the operation of non-registered arms brokers. It says a registry should be maintained including the names of all persons involved in providing services related to arms transfers and that strict use of end-user certificates should be required.