Swiss study says up to 27 groups may possess anti-aircraft missiles
GENEVA (AFP) Jun 30, 2004
Up to 27 organizations, some of which are linked to the al-Qaeda terror network, possess mobile surface-to-air missiles capable of blowing up a civilian airliner, according to a report released here Wednesday.

"The threat to civilian airliners has the potential to affect the citizens of all states traveling on major air routes," said the report by the Graduate Institute of International Studies here.

The Institute's Small Arms Survey 2004 estimated that some 100,000 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) are in circulation around the world.

"Included in the 100,000 is an unknown quantity of systems in the hands of non-state groups, some of which have been identified as terrorist organizations," the survey said.

"To date, at least 13 such groups are known to possess MANPADS with a further 14 groups reported to possess them.

"Of particular concern are those thought to be in the hands of groups loosely described as under the umbrella organization of al-Qaeda."

The missiles, which can fit in the trunk of a car and are available on the black market, came to the world's attention after an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner shortly after take-off from Mombasa, Kenya in 2002.

The survey said the disbanding of the Iraqi army meant that there were more people available with training in the operation of the missiles.