Al-Qaeda Works Cheap, Stays Hidden

Cells dodge dragnet by avoiding traceable transactions
By Jess Kilby,  Newser User
Posted Aug 24, 2008 10:18 AM CDT
Pakistani police examine weapons and ammunition seized this month. The police suspect the goods were secretly shifted from the northwest where al-Qaeda-linked terrorists are fighting security forces.   (ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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(Newser) – International efforts to cut off terrorists from funding have failed because al-Qaeda cells operate cheaply and independently, avoiding official funding channels, experts say. While the US and its allies have focused on freezing bank accounts and monitoring financial transactions, operatives build $15 bombs, drum up hard-to-trace cash through illegal scams, and move money in person, reports the Washington Post.

Ongoing investigations have revealed that cell members are trained to stay “under the radar,” sticking to rackets like small-time loan fraud to fund their operations. And while the Sept. 11 attacks required an estimated $500,000, the 2005 London transit bombings only cost about $15,000. "There's a complete disconnect” between US counter-terrorism strategies “and the underlying reality of how terrorism is funded," warned one expert.