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U.N. details al Qaeda threat

Biological, chemical attack 'a matter of time'

From CNN's U.N. Producer Vivienne Foley

Al Qaeda tapes obtained in Afghanistan by CNN show how to fire a SA-7 missile.
Al Qaeda tapes obtained in Afghanistan by CNN show how to fire a SA-7 missile.

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Some members of al Qaeda most likely possess portable surface-to-air missiles and may use them to target military transport planes, a U.N. report says.

The threat was among several findings detailed in the report by the United Nations' al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee which also cited a shifting of the terror network's strategy, a move towards "softer" targets and a warning the group was working towards a biological or chemical attack.

In regards to the missile threat, al Qaeda may now move away from targeting commercial air transport because of heightened security at facilities, said Heraldo Munoz, the Chilean ambassador to the U.N. and head of the sanctions committee.

The terror network may try to target sea routes, "ports, sea ports" and may be "looking for targets of opportunity," Munoz said.

"The panel of experts that work with our committee have insinuated that the possession of the surface-to-air missiles, these portable shoulder missiles, is a very clear danger," Munoz added.

The report, which has not yet been made public, was compiled by a five-member expert panel from the committee charged with monitoring the implementation of sanctions against people and groups linked to al Qaeda or the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

The report also identifies Iraq as "fertile ground" for al Qaeda, which receives the "funds it needs from charities, deep pocket donors, and business and criminal activities, including the drug trade."

Munoz said the panel also believes it's "just a matter of time" before al Qaeda attempts a biological or chemical terrorist attack.

"The only restraint they are facing is the technical complexity to operate them properly and effectively," he said.

"All I can say at this point is that al Qaeda and some of the associates have tried to get hold of chemical and biological weapons."

Shifting strategy

However, the killings and detentions of several members of al Qaeda has damaged the terror network, Munoz said.

"They don't have today the capacity to attack the World [Trade Center] towers as they did on the 11th of September, 2001," he said. "That capacity they don't have, that has been destroyed."

"But they do have the capacity to hit a synagogue in Istanbul, or to hit a hotel in Bali, or in Jakarta, as we have seen."

The report also predicted al Qaeda would continue to function in a decentralized manner, "with 30 or 40 organizations throughout the world and they will be focusing on what they call soft targets, not the hard targets," Munoz said.

This is the second report by the panel, which was put into place at the beginning of the year to monitor the implementation of sanctions against individuals and entities linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The report, which will be publicly released in early December, also indicated there's a belief that terrorist groups are developing explosive devices designed to evade scanning machines.

The report concludes that much tougher measures are needed to oblige "states to take the mandated measures" against known individuals and entities of al Qaeda and the Taliban and their associates.


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