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International terror finance news: suggested reading

November 23, 2014
  • A plain account of Hamas’s $1 billion budget… more>>
  • Police arrest 9 Salafists who robbed churches in Germany to fund ISISmore>>
  • Hezbollah in South America gave C4 explosives to a Brazilian prison gang in exchange for protection of Lebanese inmates (h/t @RedQRedT)… more>>
  • Hamas recently smuggled $12 million from Syria to Turkey—money which is being held by the brother-in-law of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaalmore>>
  • Turkey’s cross-border smuggling with Iraq and Syria wouldn’t be so worrisome if it weren’t for Turkey’s porous northern border with EU member Bulgaria… more>>
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Low on donations, AQAP goes on robbery spree

November 21, 2014

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is robbing whatever they can—banks, post offices, and exchange houses in a desperate bid to keep the money flowing for their arms and operations, according to Yemeni sources.

Traditionally, robberies are a hallmark of poorly funded terrorist groups that are unable to obtain financial support from more legitimate channels such as contributions from sponsors. It is possible that as Iraq and Syria have become the target for wealthy Gulf donors, other fronts of the global jihad aren’t receiving the same level of sponsorship that they received a few years ago.

From Al-Shorfa on Nov. 6 (h/t El Grillo):

AQAP loots Yemeni citizens’ livelihood to fund its crimes

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has resorted to robbing banks and government facilities to finance its activities, researchers told Al-Shorfa.

In mid-October, AQAP stormed al-Udayn Post Office in Ibb province, stealing 30 million riyals ($140,000), the official news agency Saba reported.

In August, AQAP gunmen stormed the town of al-Qatn in Wadi Hadramaut and robbed a number of local banks and exchange companies, including the Agricultural Credit Bank and a branch of the National Bank, according to news reports.

AQAP is currently suffering from a shortage of funding, which it needs to cover the cost of its crimes and for weapons and explosives, said Saeed al-Jamhi, a researcher specialising in Islamist groups.

This is why the group has resorted to burglary, looting, bank robbery and plundering, despite the fact that Islam forbids such practices, he told Al-Shorfa.

“Extremism has many facets, including unlawfully shedding the blood of others — the most grievous crime,” al-Jamhi said. “Deeming the money of Muslims as permissible [to steal] is another aspect of extremism.”

AQAP resorts to misinterpreting and misrepresenting religious and jurisprudential texts, distorting their words or not interpreting their true meaning, he said, adding, “The sanctity of human life is greater than the sanctity of money, and whoever deems it permissible to take a human life has no qualms about seizing the money of others”.

“Al-Qaeda’s practices, including the heinous killings of innocent civilians, and its bank robberies and looting of state funds by plundering post offices, are unacceptable under Islamic sharia law,” al-Jamhi said.

“These acts have given the world a distorted picture of Islam and brought harm to Muslims,” he added.

Al-Qaeda ‘sheds innocent blood’

Fares al-Saqqaf, strategy advisor to the Yemeni president, told Al-Shorfa that AQAP’s bloodshed and looting indicates it is “in a state of great weakness and disarray”.

The group “is in an obvious state of weakness due to the war waged against it and the siege laid on it both domestically and abroad in the context of the war on terrorism, as represented by the military campaign battling it locally, the army’s pursuit of its gunmen and the blocking of its funding sources”, he said…

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UAE: ISIS licking chops over vital sea channels

November 20, 2014

Threats to key choke points like the Strait of Hormuz from a joint venture between al-Shabaab and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are possible according to the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.  The UAE foreign minister’s comments are being construed somewhat narrowly as a warning that ISIS could engage in piracy with al-Shabaab. But that overlooks the wider influence that al-Shabaab wields over shipping, controlling Somali ports and exacting taxes on illegal charcoal exports to the Arabian peninsula.  In other words, al-Shabaab could help ISIS undermine freedom of the seas not just through piracy, but through smuggling and illicit business relationships with Gulf states.  The foreign minister’s warnings should be read within that wider context.

From DefenseNews (h/t El Grillo):

…On Oct. 29, UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan raised the piracy concerns, calling for the international community to be more vigilant regarding new threats at the fourth UAE Counter Piracy Conference in Dubai.

“As groups like Daesh [Islamic State] develop ties to criminal networks and arms networks like al-Shabab, it is essential that we prevent them from expanding their operations into the sea and threaten vital channels such as the Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea, Bab al Mandab and the Gulf of Aden,” he said.

“The nexus of criminal groups, violent extremists, and weak states will require a coordinated response from governments and the private sector,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves these questions and prepare ourselves in case a union of [the Islamic State group] and al-Shabab occurs”…

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Boko Haram gun-running in Cameroon

November 18, 2014

Gun-running in West and Central African

Boko Haram is trafficking arms in far northern Cameroon, according to military officials and news sources. An arms seizure led to at least one arrest in January, and a gendarme raid in the central market of Maroua, the regional capital, led to the arrest of 40 suspects connected with trafficking arms for the jihadist group in June.  Weapons and their proceeds are used in Boko Haram strongholds in northeastern Nigeria of Yobe and Borno.

Furthermore, Cameroon is being exploited by Chadian, Libyan, and Qatari networks to smuggle weapons on Boko Haram’s behalf according to a recent and informative report from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point by Jacob Zenn with internal citations omitted (h/t El Grillo):

…The tie between arms traffickers and Boko Haram commanders was also highlighted in key arrests in Cameroon. One Chadian weapons trafficker was arrested in Waza [Cameroon] in June 2014 working on behalf of a Maroua-based Boko Haram commander and possessed $15,000 from deals that he made in Chad. Days before his arrest, Cameroon uncovered weapons stockpiles in Maroua’s central market. In addition, in June 2014, Cameroon discovered travel documents from Libya (Africa’s largest arms market since 2011) and Qatar and receipts from car exports to Qatar in a Boko Haram camp, which suggests a possible link to Alhaji Abdalla, who was Boko Haram’s negotiator in the [kidnapping of the French family] Moulin-Fournier and other kidnappings…

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World’s biggest Islamic charity branded as terrorist group by 2nd Middle East country

November 17, 2014

Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Arab Emirates, the second Middle Eastern country to do so within the past five months. In June, IRW was declared illegal by Israel for being a financial conduit to Hamas, and it was banned from operating in Israel and the West Bank.

The Birmingham, England-based IRW is the largest international Islamic charity in the world with a £155 million (240 million USD) budget in 2013.  IRW has over 280 employees and is active in more than 30 countries.  IRW maintains over a dozen affiliates throughout the world, each with multi-million dollar operating budgets of their own including Islamic Relief USA, which is the largest Islamic charity in America.

IRW accepted a $50,000 check from Osama Bin Laden in 1999, had a Gaza program coordinator who aided Hamas from 2005-06, received over £60K from an Al Qaeda front group from 2003-08, has leaders who are closely aligned with the global Muslim Brotherhood, and had programs staffed by Hamas personnel in the Palestinian territories as recently as this year.  Supporters of IRW have noted that the UK’s charitable regulator has not confirmed the evidence against IRW; however, a 2013 audit found that the Charity Commission is understaffed, too passive in its investigations, and is generally unfit for its regulatory duties.

UAE calls 15 Muslim groups in the West “terrorists”

In addition to the IRW designation, the UAE named 15 other Islamic charities and advocacy groups in the U.S. and Europe as terrorist entities:

  • Islamic Relief UK (the British affiliate of IRW)
  • Muslim Association of Britain (part of the U.K. Muslim Brotherhood)
  • Cordoba Foundation in Britain (once described by David Cameron as a Muslim Brotherhood front group)
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations (the self-described civil rights group which was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas-financing trial)
  • Muslim American Society (which was created by the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood)
  • Union of Islamic Organizations of France (a French Muslim group tied to the Muslim Brotherhood that profits from halal certification)
  • Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (an alliance financed by Gulf sources with ties to Hamas)
  • Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland (the “main representative” of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany)
  • Associazione Musulmani Italiani (Italian Muslim Association)
  • League of Muslims in Belgium (La Ligue des Musulmans de Belgique)
  • Muslim Association of Sweden (Sveriges muslimska förbund)
  • Islamic Society in Denmark (Islamsk Trossamfund)
  • Islamic Council Norway (Islamsk Rad Norge)
  • Finnish Islamic Association (Suomen Islam-seurakunta)
  • CANVAS in Belgrade, Serbia

The UAE designated over 80 groups overall, most of which are located in the Middle East.  The practical effect of the designations are limited, designed for “transparency” and to “raise awareness.”  In other words, the designations include not asset freezes, travel bans, or prohibitions on transacting business with the designated groups.

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Somalia interdicts shipload of bombs and guns

November 16, 2014

First time for everything. Thanks to a UN resolution authorizing searches and seizures of ships by Somali security forces, one fewer Gulf-backed arms shipment is making its way into the arsenals of al-Shabaab. The resolution will also make it somewhat harder for al-Shabaab to profit from the illegal export of charcoal from Somalia into the ports of the Arabian peninsula.  From Sabahi Online (hat tip to Chris for sending this in):

Tightened security off Somalia’s coast aims to bankrupt al-Shabaab

The recent seizure of an illegal arms shipment off the Somali coast signals the government’s increasing ability to manage maritime security, analysts say, but it also highlights the need for more effective ways to degrade al-Shabaab’s access to weapons and money.

Somali security forces seized a shipping container filled with weapons and explosives October 28th, just days after the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorising the inspection and seizure of vessels in Somali waters suspected of carrying prohibited items.

Under the resolution, states and regional partners can search ships in Somalia’s territorial waters and on the high seas when there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect they are transporting illegal arms or charcoal, a key source of funding for al-Shabaab militants.

Despite an international ban on charcoal exports, the illegal trade has increased, with al-Shabaab holding on to approximately one-third of the $250 million annual trade, according to a report by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea released in June.

“Charcoal is giving Al-Shabaab a lifeline,” said British Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant after the resolution passed October 24th.

Grant said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had written to the Security Council October 8th, requesting assistance. “Today we have responded to that call for help,” he said in a press statement, stressing that the fight against al-Shabaab was at the heart of the resolution.
Resolution provides welcomed support to Somali security agencies

Somalia’s security apparatus is not yet capable of monitoring and controlling all maritime traffic to the ports under its control and could use the help from its international partners, said retired Colonel Sharif Hussein Robow, a former intelligence officer during the Mohamed Siad Barre regime.

Robow praised the government for seizing the container of contraband weapons and explosives at Mogadishu Port last month, but said there are many more shipments carrying prohibited items that fall through the cracks.

“The entry of these types of weapons and everything else that is illegal in a country depends on the government’s capacity [to stop it],” he said.

Currently, security at Somalia’s ports is weak because personnel are not properly trained and officers lack motivation because they are not paid regularly and lack strong supervision, Robow said.

Nonetheless, the UN resolution will help Somalia’s international partners stop the flow of illegal weapons into Somali ports, he said. It can also help stop the export of charcoal, a key source of revenue for al-Shabaab.

“One of the ways [al-Shabaab] gets money includes collecting taxes from traders who bring charcoal from the forest,” he said. “The second way is they could actually own the charcoal that is being exported, and third, they extort money from the big businesses in the charcoal trade.”

Daud Abdi Daud, secretary general of Somali Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture, a non-profit organisation that aims to expand and improve media coverage of key issues from climate change to civil insecurity, said he welcomed inspections carried out by international partners off the coast of Somalia.

“Taking such a step to stop Somali charcoal exports is a good thing because this issue poses a big problem for both the Somali people and the environment,” Daud told Sabahi. “Cutting [trees for] charcoal has resulted in desertification in Somalia and the migration of wildlife out of Somalia because the trees they would have sheltered under are being cut.”

“Cutting trees is also a big part of the widespread drought and famine in Somalia because deforestation leads to a lack of rainfall, which ultimately results in droughts,” he said.

“When the government took control of Barawe, it was a crippling loss for al-Shabaab’s finances because the millions of dollars al-Shabaab earned from charcoal exports came from charcoal that was exported from the Barawe port,” Daud said.

However in its October report, the UN Monitoring Group said more than one million bags of charcoal are still being shipped out of Kismayo Port each month, even though the Somali government resumed control of Kismayo in 2012…

And Kismayo is just one of several ports being used for illegal charcoal shipping.

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Secret details spilled on ISIS’s funding

November 14, 2014

How jihad group uses WhatsApp, oil hoses, and looted antiquities to stay solvent

ISIS using mobile apps to stay in touch with financiers
There was a time when terrorists preferred moving their money through the traditional Islamic debt transfer system of hawala, through the conventional wire services like Western Union and MoneyGram, or through a combination of both. But fears of detection led ISIS to send personal couriers and fundraisers to Europe, while staying in touch with them through text messaging and WhatsApp, as an ongoing trial against a Syrian-Lebanese man in Germany illustrates (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Antiquity smuggling isn’t random looters, it’s an organized ISIS racket
ISIS has made over $35 million from selling historical artifacts, and now controls 4,500 archaeological sites (h/t Rushette). They justify their bulldozing and looting on the basis of khums, the traditional Islamic tax on discovered wealth (h/t Sal)… more>> and more>>

ISIS and al-Nusra smuggle oil right under the noses of Turkish gendarmes
Turkish border guards look the other way as vans filled with oil drums and tubes are laid in trenches to transfer black market oil from Syria and Iraq. A new report takes a look at the nuts and bolts of the illicit trade along with photos of how it’s done (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

Businessmen flee Mosul as ISIS breaks no-new-taxes promise
Manufacturers and small business owners in Mosul, Tikrit, and Fallujah abandon their factories to avoid making “royalty” payments to ISIS after they reneged on an earlier pledge not to tax them (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

ISIS’s coffers have been wildly overestimated, says Germany
Even using all of these revenue techniques, there’s a genuine possibility that ISIS may have bigger financial problems than previously reported. German intelligence reveals that ISIS is only to raise between 3 to 10 percent as much money from oil sales as previously reported, and that its production abilities are dwindling rapidly as oil production sites are bombed and oil technicians flee their posts (h/t El Grillo)… more>>

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