Trafficking Cocaine In The Name Of Allah
By Rachel Ehrenfeld*
Thursday, January 31st, 2013 @ 11:54PM
“Terrorism and drugs go together like rats and the bubonic plague,” stated Attorney General John Ashcroft (March 2002). “They thrive in the same conditions, support each other, and feed off each other.”
The nexus of terrorist groups and international criminal organizations is complex, linking money, geography, politics, arms, and tactics to create a mutually beneficial relationship.This nexus yields hundreds of billions of dollars in revenues worldwide—for 1992 alone, the figure was close to $1 trillion. A decade later, with the exponential growth in drug consumption, U.S. experts estimated the profits to be as high as $2 trillion. Since then, a staggering supply of heroin from Afghanistan, Iran and Mexico, and cocaine from South America, have created millions of new drug addicts the world over and filled the coffers of Islamist warlords.
While Islam forbids the use of drugs by Muslims, there are no such limitations in selling it to the infidels. Islamist terror organizations’ drug trafficking has been even encouraged by special fatwas. Why the emphasis on drugs? There are no other commodities on the market today with as high and fast a return, as cocaine, heroin or amphetamines. In addition, the drug trade is a triple pronged weapon that helps the jihadists to:
• Finance their activities.
• Undermine targeted countries politically and economically, and create crises in public health.
• Recruit new members to destroy the corrupt drug addicted Western societies.
Recent events in Mali and Algeria have generated news articles showing that drug trafficking is the mainstay of Islamist groups in the Maghreb and Sahel.
The region was even aptly renamed as “Sahelistan,” which of course calls to mind “Afghanistan” and captures the hugeness, emptiness, and attraction to Islamist terror groups and the opportunities to smuggle drugs as a source of income.
The recently French-liberated northern Malian city of Gao, brings home the region’s narco-terrorist character. While the Islamists have forced Shari’a on the city’s residents, they left alone the inhabitants of “‘Cocainebougou’ — translates as ‘cocaine town’ — the strip of mansions is home to the elite of the city’s ancient smuggling community.”
But drug smuggling is not new to Africa. Latin American drug cartels have collaborated with Nigerian organized crime groups for decades; shipping heroin from Asia to the Europe and the U.S., and South American cocaine across the Sahara to Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, and by air and sea to Europe.
Not to be dismissed is Hezbollah, which for decades used its drug trafficking operations in South America’s Tri-border region and Mexico, to purchase used cars in the U.S. then ship them to Western African countries with large Middle Eastern communities. While the criminal activities of these groups are no secret, stopping their money laundering operations is difficult. Last summer’s seizure of $150 million from the now defunct Montreal brunch of the Beirut based Lebanese Canadian Bank, is an exception.
Drug trafficking’s enormous revenues have corrupted many countries in the region, and helped al Qaeda to buy the loyalty of public officials and law enforcement. The destitution of the Sahel region makes it easier.
According to British Sahara expert Andy Morgan, “In northern Mali, everything that is eaten comes from Algeria and comes illegally.” This is because “goods in Algeria’s oil-subsidized socialist economy are vastly cheaper than in dirt poor, remote Mali, creating a thriving black market in everything from petrol to semolina.” If a young man joins the terrorists, he’ll receive a monthly salary of about 90 Euro, daily meals, and a Kalashnikov. He’ll also be given the opportunity to oppress local populations, which will give him a feeling of power he couldn’t obtain otherwise.
As with Afghanistan and other producing and trafficking countries, “Sahelistan” has been afflicted with cocaine addiction. When the French liberated Diabaly, in Mali, they saw cocaine snorting Islamist fighters.
Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC’s regional head, estimates that 35 tons of cocaine make their way through “Sahelistan” annually. Well known by now is the “Cocaine Air” incident of 2009, when the Malians discovered an abandoned Boeing 727 in the desert near Tarkint. UNODC concluded that the plane could have been carrying up to 11 tons of cocaine and had been flown direct from Venezuela.
Other Sources of AQIM’s Income
The Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb terrorist group, for example, has sustained itself since 2003 primarily on revenues derived from the hostage taking, mostly Westerners. Since then it has increased its drug trafficking activities; it also receives some donations.
In January 2010, a Drug Enforcement Administration official revealed that al Qaeda groups in West Africa were charging protection fees from cocaine drug-trafficking groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). West African countries and criminal organizations have been used for years by the Colombians to transfer drugs to Europe. Al Qaeda involvement with drug trafficking organizations in South America has been documented since the early 1990s. More recently, terrorist group operatives have been linked to Mexican drug cartels, providing the terrorists easy access to the U.S.
The Maghreb group’s kidnap-for-ransom business, especially in North Africa, generates many millions of dollars. The problem has become so prevalent that, in September, Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the U.N. Security Council to urgently “act to prevent” the practice of “kidnap ransoms.” The U.N. Security Council expressed its concern, reminding member states to prevent terrorist financing, but did not address the payment of ransom for kidnapping.
WikiLeaks reported on November 28, 2012, that a cable from the State Department in December 2009 complained that Saudi donors remain the primary financiers of Sunni militant groups like al Qaeda. The cable confirmed that very little has changed since former Undersecretary of the Treasury for Financial and Terrorism Intelligence Stuart Levey’s testimony before Congress in 2006. “On terrorist financing … there has been a real lag between what (the Saudis) say they were going to do and what they do,” he said.
Pakistani police reported in 2009 that Saudi Arabia’s charities continue to fund al Qaeda, the Taliban and Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. The report said the Saudis gave $15 million to jihadists, including those responsible for suicide attacks in Pakistan and the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
In May 2010, Buratha News Agency, an independent news source in Iraq, reported on a leaked Saudi intelligence document showing continued Saudi governmental support for al Qaeda in Iraq in the form of cash and weapons.
In 2009, Levey told the Senate Banking Committee about concerns over “deep-pocket donors” and the abuse of charities to fund militants.
In the aftermath of the Islamist raid and kidnapping at In Amenas in Algeria, we learned that its mastermind and a founder of AQIM, Mokhtar Belmokhtar until relatively recently made his money from cigarette smuggling, working the routes between Mali and Algeria. The Hindustan Times reports that this was Belmokhtar’s mainstay, until drug trafficking came along. While cigarettes could hardly outdo cocaine in profitability, they help keep the war chest filled.
PBS’s The Morning Line reports that after the Islamists had been chased out of one Malian city, records of payments “possibly to jihadi fighters,” and a money transfer from someone in Saudi Arabia were found. One Nema Sagara is quoted as saying “You can see. We hear about it. But this is the proof. They talk about Qatar. They talk about Saudi Arabia and everything. This is the proof, yes. And now we keep that evidence for my people.”
After the Malian city of Gao was captured by Islamists in June 2012, journalist Malick Aliou Maïga observed delegations of bearded men going to see the new rulers almost daily. ‘They were supporters from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Qatar. They were bringing money.’”
In the meantime, in Afghanistan, on January 29, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. military has blacklisted Afghanistan’s largest private airline, Kam Air, “on allegations that it is trafficking opiates.” It’s a small miracle that someone actually spoke up and took action. Americans who serve in the region have legions of stories on local, mostly by American instructed personnel, who seem not to retain what has been seen as “only drill” about drug trafficking to them. Many, as soon as the meetings were over, rush back to their offices or to their fiefdoms to resume the trade and count the money. Afghanistan’s most efficient laundromat of airplane loads of cash is our good ally Dubai.
Further Reading on Terrorist Funding