updated 8/26/2004 10:01:54 PM ET 2004-08-27T02:01:54

All major al-Qaida-linked attacks except Sept. 11 cost less than $50,000 each to carry out, according to a new U.N. report circulated Thursday that indicated just how little money the terror network needs to mount operations.

The report - the first by a new team monitoring the implementation of U.N. sanctions against al-Qaida and the Taliban - said only the sophisticated attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon using hijacked aircraft "required significant funding of over six figures."

"Other al-Qaida terrorist operations have been far less expensive," said the report, directed to the U.N. Security Council.

For example, the report said the March attacks in the Spanish capital, Madrid, in which nearly 10 simultaneous bombs exploded on four commuter trains, cost $10,000 to carry out. The blasts killed 191 people, Spain's worst terror attack.

The November 2003 attacks in Istanbul, Turkey - four suicide truck bombings that killed 62 people - cost less than $40,000, the report found. And the twin truck bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 are estimated to have cost less than a total $50,000. Those attacks killed 231 people, including 12 Americans.

'Sense of crisis'
The report said al-Qaida has changed over the last five years from an organization run by Osama bin Laden to a global network of groups that don't wait for orders but launch attacks against targets of their own choosing, using minimal resources and exploiting worldwide publicity "to create an international sense of crisis."

"There is no prospect of an early end to attacks from Al-Qaida associated terrorists," the monitoring team said. "They will continue to attack targets in both Muslim and non-Muslim states, choosing them according to the resources they have available and the opportunities that occur. While they will look for ways to attack high profile targets, soft targets will be equally vulnerable."

U.N. sanctions require all U.N. member states to impose a travel ban and arms embargo against a list of those linked to the Taliban or al-Qaida, currently 317 individuals and 112 groups, and to freeze any assets. Sanctions were first imposed on bin Laden's network in 1999.

The report said punitive measures to stop terror financing have had some effect and led to "millions of dollars of assets" being frozen.

"As a result of national and international action, al-Qaida's funding has decreased significantly. But so, too, has its need for money," the team said.

The number of people in training camps controlled by al-Qaida "is now far less, and al-Qaida no longer pays the $10 million to $20 million annually that it gave to its Taliban hosts" in Afghanistan before a U.S.-led force routed the government in late 2001, it said.

While some money for the al-Qaida attacks since 1998 may have come from "the center," the report said "much of it will have been collected locally, whether through crime or diverted from charitable donations."

But the monitoring team said al-Qaida will still need to raise and move money, and not enough was being done to identify those involved and to crack down on terror-related transactions - especially those through informal channels.

The report said not a single country reported stopping an arms shipment or banning entry to any of the Taliban and al-Qaida members on the U.N. list.

Unconventional weapons
It called for increased efforts to stop al-Qaida from obtaining large weapons systems and to restrict its ability to build non-conventional bombs designed to cause mass casualties.

"There is evidence that al-Qaida remains interested in acquiring the means to construct bombs that would disperse chemical, biological or radiological pollutant, and the threat to use such a device was repeated, albeit obliquely, in a communique from the Abu Hafs Brigade, an al-Qaida offshoot, on July 1, 2004," the report said.

"Al-Qaida related groups have tried at least twice to buy the basic ingredients for a dirty bomb and a good deal of the necessary technical knowledge is available on the Internet," it said. "There is real need therefore to try to design effective measures against this threat."

Overall, the monitoring team said, U.N. sanctions have had "a limited impact," primarily because the Security Council has reacted to events "while al-Qaida has shown great flexibility and adaptability in staying ahead of them."

It cited al-Qaida's transformation from an office supporting Afghan fighters to its role initiating and sponsoring terrorism from an established base "to its current manifestation as a loose network of affiliated underground groups with certain goals in common."

"Al-Qaida wishes to promote the idea that Islam and the West are now at war, and that al-Qaida and its supporters are the true defenders of the faith," the monitoring group said. "This message ... appeals to a widespread sense of resentment and helplessness in the face of the West's political and economic hegemony that many believe is intrinsically and determinedly inimical to their interests."

"Al-Qaida's ability to strike the enemy and survive, despite the disparity in resources, taps into an ill articulated desire for revenge and gains both recruits and donations," it said.

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