July 7 bombings 'cost just $1,000'

By HANNAH K. STRANGE, UPI U.K. Correspondent  |  Jan. 3, 2006 at 7:02 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The London bombings of July 7 cost just $1,000 to execute and were paid for primarily out of one of the bomber's wages, it was reported Tuesday.

Immediately after the attacks in the British capital, which claimed 52 lives, officers at Scotland Yard began investigating the financing in the hope that it would lead them to the mastermind of the atrocities.

However their investigations led them to believe that one of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was the principal financier of the attacks, the BBC reported. A respected figure in his local community of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, Khan paid for the materials out of his salary as a teaching assistant, giving money to other members of the cell to purchase supplies.

Detectives estimated the cost of executing the attacks as no more than several hundred British pounds, approximately $1,000.

Loretta Napoleoni, an economist and expert on terrorist financing, said the figure was part of a pattern.

"If you look at 9/11, which cost only $500,000 to execute, and then you look at all the subsequent attacks that have taken place -- going from Bali to Istanbul to Madrid to London -- we actually see that the cost of the attacks is decreasing exponentially."

The 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia cost less than $50,000 while the 2003 attacks on British interests in Istanbul, Turkey cost under $40,000. The train bombings in Madrid on March 11, 2004 are estimated to have cost $10,000, while the London attacks cost just one-tenth of that sum.

Shortly following the July 7 attacks, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown urged European Union finance ministers at a Brussels meeting to take greater steps to prevent the financing of terrorism.

But the fact the London attacks were carried out at such a low cost, and that the funds were raised legitimately, highlights the growing difficulty of tracking and stopping such financing.

MJ Gohel, director of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based think tank, told United Press International: "This is the huge challenge for intelligence and security services, because these global jihadis have learnt with the passage of time and adapted."

Whereas in previous attacks such as those on Sept. 11, the perpetrators had been flown in from abroad, terrorist groups were now recruiting from within the countries concerned, which saved a great deal of money, he said.

In the case of the London bombings, the chemicals used had been readily available and inexpensive and there had been no need to purchase vehicles or expensive detonation devices.

Members of local cells would receive official salaries that drew out relatively small amounts of cash, he said; therefore there would be no unusual activity on the account which would draw the attention of the bank or the authorities.

"It's all completely above board," he added. "From an intelligence perspective this is a major, major challenge because there is nothing suspicious that is happening."

In previous cases, suspicious money transfers had alerted the authorities, he said, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, a British-born Pakistani convicted of the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, had allegedly transmitted $100,000 to Sept. 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta from Dubai. A sum of that size with no apparent business purpose would raise eyebrows and leave a money trail, he said.

"Now they are dealing with such small sums of money, it is very, very difficult."

However the fact that the July 7 bombers had apparently financed the attacks themselves did not mean there was no mastermind recruiting, indoctrinating and organizing them, Gohel emphasized.

"There was obviously a mastermind involved here," he said. Three of the bombers had recently made trips to Pakistan and Osama Bin Laden's deputy in al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had associated himself with the attacks. The failed bomb attempts two weeks later on July 21 could not have been simply a copycat attack as the bombers would not have had sufficient time to prepare, he said; therefore "obviously somebody had orchestrated both those cells."

Although the intelligence and security services had performed magnificently in preventing many serious plots, they had never actually broken into who was masterminding, financing and recruiting for such attacks, Gohel said. "There is a complete blank there."

Governments had to some extent "got it wrong" in thinking that by freezing bank accounts and closing down extremist organizations they could cut off the supply of finance to terrorists, he said.

Terrorists had become more sophisticated, recruiting individuals with no criminal records from within the countries concerned, he continued.

"While nations have been busy sealing borders and watching airports, they have stayed one step ahead."

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