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Al Qaeda in Dire Financial Straits, Treasury Official Says

Al Qaeda in dire straits financially, Treasury official says(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda has been handicapped by financial problems, the Treasury Department’s top sanctions attack dog said Thursday.

Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said that “in the last few years, it became clear that al Qaeda was encountering financial difficulties” and that the organization was in its worst financial position in years in 2010. He adds that after assessing al Qaeda’s situation, it would “not only impair its ability to operate, but also would likely send al Qaeda and its affiliates in search of new sources of funding.”

Cohen said that recent intelligence shows the terror group’s detailed accounting practices betray its budget woes.

He touted efforts that began under the Bush administration and continued under President Obama to target sources of al Qaeda’s funding. The Treasury Department has sanctioned individuals and entities who have facilitated fundraising for terror groups and has encouraged other countries to cut off flows of cash. Those methods, he said, have hindered their ability to carry out attacks.

There are stilll challenges, however. As their traditional sources of funding, like donors in Saudi Arabia, were choked off, Cohen said Kuwait and Qatar have emerged as “permissive environments for extremist fundraising.”

Likewise, al Qaeda and its regional affiliates have turned to new tactics to fund their operations. Specifically, Cohen said kidnapping for ransom has become the most worrisome trend. He said al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the terror branch in North Africa, has raised “tens of millions of dollars” since 2008 through ransom operations.

The shift in funding tactics poses a new problem for those looking to weaken al Qaeda financially. The new methods are harder to combat since they are not as vulnerable to sanctions and other financial instruments that the U.S. government and its allies can employ.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

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