Stopping Finances Won't Stop Bombings

The current focus on tracing the finances and seizing the assets of terrorist organisations may have little impact in preventing attacks, as terrorist can build and explode bombs for very little money.

[ClickPress, Fri Dec 15 2006] That was the warning from BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner to delegates gathered at the Counter Terror World Conference in London this month.

Speaking during the opening session of the conference, Mr Gardner said: “Personally, I think that going after terrorist finances in the belief that we can stop terrorism is a bit of a red herring.

“From an intelligence gathering perspective, then tracing finances can be very useful, but if you think that you can cut off terrorists’ finances and then there will be no more bombs, you are sadly deluded.”

Mr Gardner highlighted the London and Madrid bombings as examples of just how cheaply terrorists can bring both mass destruction and disruption to major cities. The suicide bombings on the London Underground and the bus bomb in Tavistock Square on July 7 last year are estimated to have cost less than £8,000, while the Madrid training bombings were financed by a marijuana deal worth no more than £10,000.

“Even the attacks on 9/11 were, considering their impact, very cheap” added Mr Gardener, who said that to date around $125million of terrorist funds had been confiscated.
And despite efforts to restrict the financial resources of terrorist groups, Mr Gardner confirmed that organisations such as Al-Qaeda had still “upped their game” when it came to getting messages out to the media and trying to attract young Muslims.

“Al-Qaeda have a very effective PR machine; nowadays, when they put out a video-taped message it will nearly always include a translation because they are making the message more attractive to young, western Muslims.”

Mr Gardner was himself the victim of Al-Qaeda gunmen while working for the BBC in Saudia Arabia in June 2004; he was left paralysed following the attack in Riyadh, in which cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed.

The Counter Terror World conference ran alongside London’s largest ever security exhibition, featuring more than 150 leading companies including, the website for the security industry. Andrew Greenfield, MD, said: “The standard of debate in the conference was matched by the innovation and technology on display in the exhibition, and we had a fantastic response over the two days from delegates and exhibition visitors alike.”

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