Al-Qaida resumes terrorist camps, says U.N.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

UNITED NATIONS -- New foot soldiers for Islam's holy war are streaming into al-Qaida training camps that have been recently reactivated in eastern Afghanistan, a U.N. report on the terror group said Tuesday.

While Osama bin Laden's financial network has been mostly dismantled his terror network still enjoys significant support and has "access to substantial funding from its previously established investments," said the report by an expert panel.

Michael Chandler of Britain, who led the expert group, told a news conference that al-Qaida operatives might be present in about 40 countries, which he did not identify.

The U.N. experts warned in the report that al-Qaida has the potential to obtain nuclear material and build "some kind of dirty bomb."

More than a year after a U.S.-led coalition ousted Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers, who harbored bin Laden and his followers, the report said "one of the most recent developments to come to light is the apparent activation of new, albeit simple, training camps in eastern Afghanistan" for al-Qaida supporters.

Chandler said the camps may have sprung up near the eastern town of Asadabad, in Kunar province. But he said since U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan were constantly looking for such facilities, these camps were "small, discreet and mobile" and did not stay in one place for too long.

"Particularly disturbing about this trend is the fact that new volunteers are making their way to these camps, swelling the numbers of would-be al-Qaida activists and the longer-term capabilities of the network," the report said.

Reports of training camps have also surfaced from Peshawar, near the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Last week, some officials in Pakistan's intelligence community and Interior Ministry said suicide squads were being trained in Pakistan by al-Qaida operatives to hit targets in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government denies the presence of such camps.

Many "disillusioned" young men still flock to such camps, either to be trained as "foot soldiers" for al-Qaida or to receive more specialized training. He did not give details.

"There is a tremendous amount of sympathy in some countries for the movement," Chandler said, referring to al-Qaida. He did not name any country.

There are no precise numbers for suspected terrorists, but "the figure of 10,000 is tossed around," he said.

The Oct. 12 bombings in Bali, Indonesia, confirmed the extent of relationships between al-Qaida and the loose coalition of extremist groups in Southeast Asia, while the Nov. 28 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, demonstrated a shift in tactics by the group to hit soft targets, the U.N. report said.

Chandler said there was no proof that al-Qaida had obtained nuclear material, but there was evidence to show that the group had expressed interest in it.

"Our concern is you can actually get the stuff," he said.

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