Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Hebdo’

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How entangled is the terror economy is with our own?

March 20, 2015

France 24 recently interviewed Professor Louise Shelley, author of the book Dirty Entanglements. Shelley discusses the variety of revenue sources available to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). She also points to trade-based money laundering as one of the techniques that ISIS uses to finance their activities. The interview also includes a discussion of Boko Haram and its reliance on human smuggling for money. Finally, Shelley addresses how low-level, petty crimes can culminate into larger threats; for example, the Charlie Hebdo attackers sold counterfeit Nikes to help cover their expenses.

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Police probe Kouachi’s counterfeit connections

January 20, 2015

Sales of counterfeit goods by Charlie Hebdo attacker Cherif Kouachi helped fund the purchase of weapons,” according to a CNN source. The LA Times reports that Cherif Kouachi began “trafficking in counterfeit clothing and shoes” after his release from jail.

The revelations point to an additional, possible source of revenue behind the terrorist attacks in Paris against Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the Hyper Cacher kosher grocery beyond what has previously been reported. Cherif Kouachi is also said to have received $20,000 from AQAP before leaving Yemen, and fellow terror cell member Amedy Coulibaly purchased several of the weapons used during the attacks drawing from a $7,000 personal loan and possibly by trading in a car. Weapons possessed by the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly had a reported street value of 27,000 euros.

An associate of Cherif Kouachi, Fritz-Joly Joachim, was arrested in Bulgaria earlier this year, and has since been charged with conspiring with Kouachi in terrorism. A Muslim convert from Haiti with French citizenship, Joachim was arrested while trying to cross the border into Turkey for possible follow-on travel into Syria. Joachim told French television that his dealings with Kouachi were strictly business: “We sold clothes together, shoes, it was just a business connection.” The reporter who interviewed him amplified on those comments, telling Radio Bulgaria that the Kouachi-Joachim business was “re-sale of clothes and shoes across Paris suburbs.”

Connecting the dots between all the reports, it is probable that investigators believe that Kouachi and Joachim were selling knockoffs, and that the money Kouachi made from the sales ultimately helped supplement the funding of the Paris attacks. This wouldn’t be the first time that counterfeit clothes in Europe have been exploited by Islamists: two imams were arrested in for their involvement in a multi-million dollar counterfeit clothing operation in Spain in December 2013.

That being said, while investigators pour over the details of Cherif Kouachi’s finances, we shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture of money and training by AQAP in Yemen.

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The $20,000 behind the Paris attacks came “from abroad”

January 14, 2015

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) gave $20,000 to future Charlie Hebdo attacker Said Kouachi before he and his brother left Yemen in August 2011 according to CBS News yesterday (h/t El Grillo), which supports Money Jihad analysis of the Kouachis’ funding earlier this week. The report also adds credibility to claims by AQAP and Cherif Kouachi himself that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were planned, ordered, and financed by AQAP itself. The physical transfer of funds to Kouachi suggests that bulk cash smuggling (or the smuggling of other financial instruments) back to Europe was the method used rather than a wire, hawala transaction, or trade-based money laundering operation.

Relatedly, the Associated Press reported weapons for the Paris terrorist attacks came from abroad:

Several people are being sought in relation to the “substantial” financing of the three gunmen behind the terror campaign, said Christophe Crepin, a French police union official. The gunmen’s weapons stockpile came from abroad, and the size of it plus the military sophistication of the attacks indicated an organized terror network, he added.

“This cell did not include just those three, we think with all seriousness that they had accomplices, because of the weaponry, the logistics and the costs of it,” Crepin said. “These are heavy weapons. When I talk about things like a rocket launcher – it’s not like buying a baguette on the corner, it’s for targeted acts.”

The Belgian daily La Dernière Heure corroborates that several of the weapons acquired by the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly were bought in Brussels.

The $20,000 figure reported by CBS is also consistent with an estimate over the weekend from counterterror expert Jean-Paul Rouiller. Bloomberg Businessweek reported:

…The Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons used by the attackers, Chérif and Saïd Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, likely cost less than €10,000 ($11,800), according to Jean-Paul Rouiller, director of the Geneva Centre for Training and Analysis of Terrorism, a Swiss research group. Including the cost of Saïd Kouachi’s 2011 trip to Yemen, where he may have received training from al-Qaeda, the total price tag for the deadly attacks by the three men might have reached about $20,000…

Bloomberg went on to report that, “for what Rouiller describes as ‘such a low-cost operation,’ financing from abroad would be unlikely”—a theory that now seems to have been disproved by the evidence.

Regardless of where it is finally determined that the funds for the weapons originated, it should be kept in mind that the direct expenses of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly aren’t the only expenditures that matter. The weapons training camp in Yemen that both Kouachi brothers attended in 2011 wasn’t “self-financed” by individual AQAP recruits. The militants at the AQAP camp that trained the Kouachi brothers didn’t self-finance their own wages. The human smuggling network that helped sneak the Kouachi brothers across the border from Oman into Yemen isn’t self-financed. Anwar al-Awlaki, the terrorist imam with whom the Kouachi brothers met while in Yemen and possibly assigned them their marching orders, was not self-financed either. Not to mention that the Kouachi brothers’ basic cost of living in Paris probably wasn’t met by part-time work delivering pizzas and gutting fish at the market.

We will also discover over time that the websites, texts, and videos that the Kouachis and Coulibaly consumed, like most Islamic radical materials, are generally produced by entities backed by Wahhabi patrons. It is important to think of the bigger picture not just of the money it took to carry out the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher operations, but the amount of money it takes to sustain a terrorist infrastructure in Yemen (and beyond) that these sleeper cells count on for arms, training and guidance.

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2011: France may have paid AQAP $12m ransom

January 13, 2015

In March 2011, three French citizens working for the Lyon-based charity Triangle Génération Humanitaire traveled to Hadramawt, Yemen. Agricultural engineer Pierre Perrault, age 29 at the time; fellow engineer and wife Leah Romary, age 25; and water treatment specialist Amelie Morgaut, age 32, intended to assist local authorities with infrastructure improvement projects, which they did until late May of that year until they were abducted by terrorist-affiliated tribesmen.

Perrault, Romary and Morgaut remained in captivity for six months in the typical fashion of kidnappers in that region of the world, which involves transferring hostages among different groups and locations.  But the strings were ultimately being pulled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In July, AQAP demanded $12 million from France for the aid workers’ release. French officials didn’t immediately comply, but began third party negotiations with AQAP through interlocutors of the sultan of Oman.

In November, the negotiations concluded. A “senior Yemeni tribal mediator” confirmed to the Associated Press that a ransom had been paid for the hostages’ release. The formal payment was made jointly by a Yemeni businessman living in Oman, Ahmed Ben Férid al-Souraimeh, and by the government of Oman, but Oman was most likely reimbursed by French intelligence behind the scenes.

Officially, France says it does not pay ransoms and did not pay a ransom in this case.  But diplomats, security experts, and terrorist groups themselves know that France does in fact pay ransoms quietly through third parties. France has paid $58 million to terrorist groups for the release of French hostages worldwide since 2008 according to the New York Times.

The Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers’ captivity overlapped the July to August 2011 time period in which French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi traveled to Yemen (via Oman) for weapons training and to meet with terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

The payment of a ransom in Yemen within a few months of the Kouachi brothers’ Yemen tour would have been useful to AQAP to fund the continued purchase of weapons for use in Yemen, to maintain training camps in Yemen, to pay wages of militants and marksmanship trainers Yemen, to cover the air travel and border crossing expenses for prospective recruits, to fund the possible remote purchase of AK-47s and RPGs on the black market in France, and to fund planning and communications for future attacks.

After slaying 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Wednesday but shortly before his death on Friday, Cherif Kouachi said that he had been financed by AQAP.

In order to have an honest discussion about whether it is proper to pay ransoms to terrorist groups, we must—as grateful as we are all for the release of the Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers—acknowledge the distinct probability that the ransom paid in that case may have been more detrimental than helpful to the long-term security interests of France.

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Kouachi: AQAP funded Charlie Hebdo attack

January 11, 2015

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bankrolled the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo according to Cherif Kouachi, one of the principal attackers. Before his death, Kouachi told French television channel BFM-TV, “I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me.” This would help explain how a group of underemployed ex-cons were able to buy AK-47s and pay for Said Kouachi’s travel to Yemen for training.

Thanks to Sal for sending in this report from Reuters:

Charlie Hebdo shooter says financed by Qaeda preacher in Yemen

PARIS, France (Reuters) – One of the two brothers who killed 12 in a massacre at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo this week has said he received financing by al Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen.

Cherif Kouachi, who was killed along with his older brother by police on Friday after a siege at a printing works in north France following a three-day manhunt, made the assertion to BFM-TV before his death while holed up inside the building.

“I was sent, me, Cherif Kouachi, by Al Qaeda of Yemen. I went over there and it was Anwar al Awlaki who financed me,” he told BFM-TV by telephone, according to a recording aired by the television channel after the siege was over.

Al Awlaki, an influential international recruiter for al Qaeda, was killed in September 2011 in a drone strike.

A senior Yemeni intelligence source earlier told Reuters that Kouachi’s brother Said had also met al Awlaki during a stay in Yemen in 2011.

Another hostage-taker linked to Kouachi, Amedy Coulibaly, who died after a police siege of a kosher market in Paris on Friday, separately called BFM-TV, saying he wanted to defend Palestinians and target Jews…

The operation appears to be a good investment for AQAP, which is poised to cash in from their new notoriety from the attack by increasing their fundraising from wealthy Arabs and smaller dollar donors on the Internet.

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AQAP to reap windfall from Paris attacks

January 10, 2015

After Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for planning the attack against Charlie Hebdo, former CIA deputy director Mike Morell told CBS Radio News yesterday that, “This is gonna put a lot of money in AQAP’s pockets. One of the ways you raise money in the terrorist world is to have a successful attack.

Indeed, AQAP would seem to have needed a notable success in the wake of their failed “underwear bomb” of Christmas 2009 and abortive air cargo bomb plot of 2010. AQAP had resorted to robbing banks, post offices, and payroll caravans in recent years, possibly to offset losses as wealthy Arabs diverted their zakat to ISIS rather than traditional Al Qaeda affiliates.

Morell’s comments dovetail with those of terror finance expert Loretta Napoleoni, who recently said of the Islamic State that:

The more famous you are, the more money you attract… The [ISIS] strategy is very interesting because instead of attacking the army of Assad—the army of Damascus—what they did was actually attacking the other jihadist groups. And that gave them a sort of notoriety within the jihadist movement because they looked the strongest, the better organized, the biggest, so everybody wanted to join them—so people wanted to move from one group to another to join them. But the same thing was for the sponsors who said “this is a really good group, this is a better group than the other, so let’s send them money.” Then there’s the other aspect of notoriety which is of course through the Internet. This organization was so popular on the Internet because they were so successful that they started to get money coming from all over the world from sympathizers and supporters.

Read in this light, the Charlie Hebdo attack would seem to put AQAP back on broader jihadist map, and give it a sales pitch for bigger recruitment and donations.

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Biggest prior terrorist attack on France funded by Algerian from London

January 8, 2015

Before the Charlie Hebdo massacre yesterday, the last major terrorist attacks on French soil were the Paris transit bombings of 1995. Those attacks, which killed eight and injured 150, were carried out by the Groupe Islamique Arme (GIA), an Algerian jihadist group. The mastermind of the GIA bombings was Rachid Ramda, an Algerian living in the U.K. at the time who the British then detained but refused to extradite to France until 10 years later. The delay in Ramda’s extradition was allegedly because of Great Britain’s “Londonistan” policy of not wanting to offend Muslim investors and immigrants even to the point of jeopardizing public safety. Ramda was eventually convicted on several charges over the Paris bombings, including the financing of the attacks which involved a wire transfer from Ramda to onsite bomber Ait Ali Belkacem. Here’s a look back at coverage of Ramda’s conviction by Reuters from 2007:

French court convicts Algerian of Paris bombings

A French court jailed Algerian Rachid Ramda for life on Friday for his role in financing a spate of bomb attacks on the Paris underground rail network that killed eight people and wounded 200 others in 1995.

Paris Assizes Court ordered that Ramda should serve a minimum 22 years behind bars for his role in the attacks, the worst bombings on mainland France since World War Two.

Court president Didier Wacogne, sitting with six professional assessors, said Ramda was “guilty of complicity to murder and attempted murder” as well as an array of explosives and other offences.

Around 70 relatives and friends of victims of the attacks were present for the verdict which was met in silence.

Ramda, 38, who denied the charges, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2006 for terrorist conspiracy linked to the same bombing campaign.

His lawyer Sebastien Bonot protested during the case that Ramda was being tried a second time for the same crime, and said after Friday’s verdict that his client would appeal.

“This decision is certainly not a surprise but we feel that justice and the law have not been done,” he told reporters.

The prosecution said Ramda was a key figure in Algeria’s radical Armed Islamic Group (GIA), and added that phone taps showed he was in regular contact with Ali Touchent and Boualem Bensaid, the GIA’s coordinators in France.

A police search of Ramda’s London address produced a Western Union payment slip bearing his fingerprints which showed he had sent 5,000 pounds ($10,250) to the Paris bombers

The source of the Charlie Hebdo attackers’ weapons and money are not yet known.