Antiquities smuggling funds terrorismJuly 6, 2014
Haqqani network leader describes $3,000 cut from smuggler
Not only does the theft of artifacts from Middle Eastern tombs, museums, and archeological sites rob the world of its history, but it funds jihadists across the globe including militants in Afghanistan and sleeper cell operatives in the West.
…In 1999, Mohamed Atta, the al Qaeda member who hijacked and flew an American Airlines plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York, tried to sell Afghan antiquities to a German university professor. Atta, according to information released by the German intelligence agency, claimed that he was selling artifacts in order to purchase an airplane.
More recently, an American expert on Afghan trafficking networks has uncovered a direct link between Afghan insurgents and the antiquities trade. In a report published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, Gretchen Peters, a senior fellow on transnational crime at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, describes how a terrorist organization known as the Haqqani Network—which is allied with al Qaeda—collects protection money from traffickers moving looted artifacts into Pakistan.
In an interview conducted by Peters’s research assistant, a Haqqani commander described receiving a $3,000 payment from a trader, and noted that many “businessmen who smuggle precious stone, sculptures, and other historic artifacts … pay dues to the Taliban to avoid trouble on the road.” These funds can then be used to purchase weapons.
Violent factions in Iraq also appear to be cashing in on the illicit antiquities trade. In 2007, Colonel Matthew Bogdanos of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, head of the investigation into the 2003 looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad, reported that insurgents turned to artifact smuggling to generate funds after the world banking community froze assets belonging to their supporters…
Shariah Finance Watch has some related information funding terrorism through smuggling in Iraq and Syria here.