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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Interview With Terrorism Expert Rohan Gunaratna

Aired November 20, 2003 - 06:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: On the phone with us right now, Rohan Gunaratna, who wrote the book "Inside Al Qaeda." He is a terrorism expert. He joins us live on the phone from Hawaii.
You are at the Homeland Defense conference, is that correct?

ROHAN GUNARATNA, TERRORISM EXPERT: The Homeland Security Summit.

COSTELLO: Well that's an interesting place to be at this time. Let's talk about Turkey for a bit before we get into that, though. Your observations?

GUNARATNA: The certainly this is attack by a Turkish cell of al Qaeda. We have seen after 9/11 a number of terrorist attacks in the global south, primarily in Asia and in the Middle East, where al Qaeda associated groups, local jihad groups are working together with al Qaeda members who have dispersed from Afghanistan. Al Qaeda members who are providing finance, providing the combat training, the combat experience and the direction to these small, desperate organizations. And certainly this attack has been mounted by a local Turkish cell of al Qaeda.

COSTELLO: You talked about financing. Is Osama bin Laden still behind the financing of these operations?

GUNARATNA: Al Qaeda has been degraded (ph) its financial and its military network. But still there are certain pockets of al Qaeda, regional pockets, that are able to fund certain terrorist operations. For instance, the operation in Bali, it was by a local group called Jemmaah Islamiah, but it was funded with al Qaeda money. Similarly, we have seen several similar attacks being staged by local groups, but al Qaeda providing the inspiration, the instigation, the finance and the tactical direction and the technology.

COSTELLO: Well let me ask you this, the United States, and supposedly Saudi Arabia, have gone to these great lengths to cut off the funding, to get rid of these phony charity organizations. What more can countries do to cut off this money to these terrorist groups?

GUNARATNA: Targeting the lifeblood of terrorist groups or terrorist financing is a very difficult task, because most law enforcement and intelligence agencies do not have financial specialists, bankers, accountants, auditors working with them. So they have to depend a lot on outside experts. It is important to develop that component so that they will be able to more effectively disrupt the terrorist financial infrastructure, which, in many ways, enables groups, such as the Turkish group, to mount this kind of attack.

COSTELLO: You know it's so difficult for many of us to understand how these attacks can be so organized when al Qaeda is supposedly scattered all about the world. The United States has taken over Afghanistan. It's invaded Iraq. I mean what more can be done to kind of disrupt the organization of this group (ph)?

GUNARATNA: Now the second sun (ph) in the fight against terrorism must begin. That is al Qaeda, per se, have seriously suffered damage to its leadership, to its operational leaders and to its members. But today what we are seeing is so many small local jihad groups, Indonesia and the Philippines, in Morocco, these groups are coming up and these groups needed to be targeted. And unfortunately, most Western intelligence agencies have very limited knowledge of these local groups because their primary focus have been al Qaeda.

But now the threat has moved beyond al Qaeda into these smaller groups. And the next phase in the fight against terrorism is for the U.S. government and other Western governments to work very closely with these Asian and Middle Eastern governments to hunt down these local groups that are ideologically and operationally linked to al Qaeda.

COSTELLO: All right. Rohan Gunaratna, the author of the book "Inside Al Qaeda," joining us -- joining us live by phone from Hawaii this morning. Thank you for your input. We certainly appreciate it.

You can get more information on the explosions in Istanbul on our Web site, CNN.com. AOL keyword CNN.

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