Cash-strapped Al Qaeda resorts to kidnapping to raise funds


AFP

WASHINGTON – Documents from Osama bin Laden’s compound show Al-Qaeda is focusing more on kidnapping to raise funds as the group faces a cash shortage, US officials said Monday.


Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed May 2 by US Navy SEALs (AFP, Aamir Qureshi)

Although kidnapping was not an entirely new tactic by the network’s core leadership, material retrieved from bin Laden’s residence in Pakistan confirms that it was “discussed further as a way of dealing with funding woes,” a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

After the US raid that killed the Al-Qaeda mastermind on May 2, American intelligence officers have been combing through the vast trove of material hauled away from bin Laden’s compound, looking for clues to possible terror attacks and financial patrons.

Even before the raid, spy agencies believed Al-Qaeda had been severely weakened and that its funding sources had been squeezed, partly as a result of a US bombing campaign against militant leaders in Pakistan using robotic aircraft.

“It?s clear that Al-Qaeda in Pakistan has resorted to kidnapping ransom payments in recent years as one way of raising funds for its terrorist operations,” said a second US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Apart from going after Al-Qaeda leaders in drone strikes, the United States and other governments have sought to track and disrupt funding channels for the group.

Bin Laden had been an important “symbol” that helped Al-Qaeda raise money, David Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, told lawmakers last month.

Al-Qaeda’s affiliates have long carried out kidnapping to fund attacks, particularly its north African wing, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

The group has been holding four French hostages since September who were abducted in northern Niger as well as an Italian kidnapped in southern Algeria in February.

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