Commonwealth to focus on terror

Global terrorism will feature high on the agenda of the upcoming Commonwealth summit, with several of its member nations having felt the sting of recent violent attacks.

    The Queen will be opening the summit next week

    The Commonwealth brings together Britain and its former dominions, colonies and protectorates, plus Mozambique.

    "Terrorism will be discussed," Commonwealth spokesman Joel Kibazo told AFP in London before flying out for the start on Friday of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja.

    The 20 November bombing attacks on the British consulate and HSBC bank in Istanbul, in which 30 people died including three Britons - one of them the British consul general - will cast a lingering shadow over the summit.

    Britain suspects the involvement of Usama bin Ladin's al-Qaida network in the coordinated attacks, the worst on British targets since the Iraq war.

    But Kibazo said: "Several Commonwealth countries have suffered terribly from terrorism."

    "Let's not forget the first al-Qaida bombs were in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 - two Commonwealth countries," Kibazo said of the twin attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar al-Salaam which killed a total of 224 people.

    Commonwealth victims 

    There were also many Commonwealth nationals among the 202 killed in the Bali bombings in Indonesia in October 2002, including 88 Australians - more than any other nationality - and 26 Britons.

    Australia was hit hardest by the
    Bali bombing

    After the 11 September attacks in the US in 2001, the Commonwealth set up a panel to coordinate anti-terrorism efforts in its 54 member states.

    The Committee on Terrorism - comprising the foreign ministers of the Bahamas, Britain, Canada, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Tonga - will report on its progress during the three-day Abuja summit.

    As well as sharing expertise in police training, the committee has sought to tackle the problem of money laundering.

    Discreet laundering

    Extremist groups and individuals are suspected of channelling funds to groups like al-Qaida, often using a discreet system of transfers through money changers and lenders who operate outside of the banking system.

    The committee has also provided assistance to smaller and less developed Commonwealth members to help them meet UN anti-terrorism obligations.

    "There is some cooperation between some of the intelligence services in the Commonwealth, but I don't think that's terribly widespread," said Richard Bourne, a Commonwealth expert at the University of London.

    Security in Abuja has been stepped up, following reports in the British press in October that Queen Elizabeth II may be targeted by al-Qaida when she opens the summit.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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