Finances and Networks of Al-Qaeda Terrorists

Scientific Study, 2008

43 Pages



I. The Financial Sources of Al Qaeda
I.1.The Al Qaeda’s Financial Networks
I.2. Bin Laden’s Personal Funds and Businesses

II. Al Qaeda’s Financial Facilitators
II.1. The International Islamic Relief Organization and Charities
II.2. Funds from Muslim World League in Mecca
II.3. The Benevolence International Foundation (BIF
II.4. The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation
II.5. The Muwafaq Foundation "Blessed Relief" Charity
II.6. The Rabita Trust

III. Al Qaeda Finances: From Saudi Arabia to the Continents
III.1. Yemen, The Sudan, Philippines and Malaysia Connections
II.2. Europe: Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Italy
III.3. United States of America and Canada

IV. Taliban-Al Qaeda International Drug Business

1. The Vision and Mission of Al Qaeda-GSPC Alliance
2. The GSPC’s Global Tactics and Fundraising
3. GSPC’S Growing International Network
4. Conclusion

I. The Financial Sources of Al Qaeda

The al Qaeda terrorist network and its sources of funding seem very complicated and mysterious at large. And much of what we know may only be speculation. The CIA has estimated, for example, that it cost Al Qaeda’ some $30 million a year to sustain itself during the period preceding 9/11, but the agency is still not sure what al Qaeda needs or expends today. [[1]]

What we know today is the modified money transfer system of Al-Qaeda, the way it moves funds around the globe. Before September 11, many financial institutions have helped transfer millions of dollars of al-Qaeda’s money, without any problem.

However, after greater inspection over the past transactions, other policies were created to prevent legal transmission of terrorist funds after 9/11. Today terrorists are increasingly using the informal hawala, a very historical transaction system6. To transport the huge amount of cash money, diamonds and gold they use donkeys, mules and horses to transport to the very remote areas[2].

I.1.The Al Qaeda’s Financial Networks

The new methods of al-Qaeda’s fund rising intimidating the local business owners and companies to contribute a certain amount money. Through that al-Qaeda has and is underway to expand even further into the criminal world to raise money. These financial dynamics are beginning to shape terrorist activity. After the al-Qaeda command was crippled to control, local al-Qaeda jihadist groups may have now willingly franchised themselves and raise funds locally and possibly encouraged to make operational decisions on their own.

The roots of al Qaeda’s financial network, trace back directly to the extensive financing networks established to support anti-Soviet jihad activities in Afghanistan. These networks made wide-ranging use of Muslim charitable organizations and businesses mainly from Saudi Arabia and around the world. After the Afghan jihadism mission was completed, al Qaeda developed and altered itself into an international terrorist movement. Based on the Afghan funding tradition, it infiltrated a series of international Muslim charities that could be use to collect and camouflage the funds it needed. Moreover, Al-Qaeda relied basically on sympathetic Arab financial facilitators, mainly from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, charities, and other rich donors to obtain and channel the funds necessary to meet its logistical and operational needs.

These funds were used by these charities for both legitimate humanitarian relief and to support al Qaeda activities. The mask of its funds included supporting the establishment and maintenance of new radical Islamic centres developing al Qaeda’s dangerous theology, world wide indoctrination and recruitment to fight the western culture and values. These centres also provided a means. These centres also helped to create propaganda that encouraged donations for al Qaeda’s terrorist actions.

The 9/11 commission report concluded that a core group of these financial facilitators were responsible for most of its funding; “Some individual donors surely knew the ultimate destination of their donations. …These financial facilitators also appeared to rely heavily on certain imams at mosques who diverted zakat donations to the facilitators and encouraged support of radical causes.”[[3]]

I.2. Bin Laden’s Personal Funds and Businesses

There is considerable less certainty with regard to other possible sources of al Qaeda funding. Experts on al-Qaeda believe that bin Laden still uses his own funds and runs its own businesses that deals in conflict diamonds and the international drug trade and other multiple resources [[4]] The 9/11 Commission itself, has admitted that the lack of credible evidence regarding such activities might be due to a continuing lack of hard intelligence regarding al Qaeda finances.[[5]] The defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the elimination of al Qaeda’s bases and safe haven there have caused al Qaeda to splinter into scores of independent cells increasingly responsible for their own funding and maintenance. Many experts continue to believe, that al Qaeda and its derivative cells will use every possibility to generate the funds they need. There are increasing indications that these groups have turned to small local businesses, petty crime and drug trade to sustain themselves. [[6]]

Several Experts, including those associated with the 9/11 Commission, believe that al Qaeda is now having a difficult time raising funds and that it has had to cut back significantly on its expenditures. [[7]] This is but not true, since the pace of terrorist recruitment and activities has accelerated, not decreased, and the growth of self sustaining local al Qaeda cells is also increasing. A good part of this money comes from radical Islamic conviction and an associated absence of tolerance towards other ethnical or religious customs or beliefs. This stems, in part, from a radical expansion of fundamentalist Islam during the past four decades. It may be generated, in part, also by a growing resentment and alienation toward Western cultural influence in the Muslim world. The Stagnant Israeli-Palestinian situation and the war in Iraq have fuel the motivations for recruitment and support of a new generation of al Qaeda related jihadist terrorists.

II. Al Qaeda’s Financial Facilitators

Al Qaeda still raises funds from donors primarily in Audi Arabia, the Gulf region, but also from countries round the world. They use bogus and legitimate charities, shell companies and legitimate businesses as covers. Huge amount of money comes also from its network in Southeast Asia, with additional funding sources from Europe. Several of these financial facilitators have been captured or identified, while many continue to remain anonymous. The U.S. Treasury and the “United Nations Al Qaeda and Taliban Sanctions Committee” has freezed some of the assets in many countries, yet many remain at large and continue their financial and business operations. [[8]]

Saudi Arabia still tolerates certain identified al Qaeda financiers, such as Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, and Wael Hamza Julaidan, whom are very active for al Qaeda, to continue to conduct business affairs in Saudi Arabia.[[9]]Two other personalities, Youssef Nada and Idris Nasreddin, who were well known by U.S. Treasury Department and the United Nations, as Al Qaeda financiers continue able to manipulate their assets from their headquarters in Campione d’Italia and Rabat, Morocco.[[10]] While Saudi Millionaire Yassin Al-Qadi has been indicted in the United States for funding al Qaeda through his Muwafaq charity, he continues to run his business empire from Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.[[11]]

The capture of top al Qaeda officials like Sheikh Saiid al-Masri, Abdul Rahim Riyadh and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was a serious blow to al Qaeda’s financial network. These two people provided names and information that have led to the identification of other facilitators and funding sources. Important information and leads have also been obtained Omar Al-Faruq and Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl who broke with al Qaeda in the mid 1990s. These two financial managers named several other sources and networks from past al Qaeda. Nevertheless, al Qaeda has been able to replace all its accounts and assets with persons or organizations remained uncovered.

II.1. The International Islamic Relief Organization and Charities

Al Qaeda’s reliance on charities to raise, mask, transfer and distribute the funds it needs, has been put under close inspection by counter- intelligence and enforcement agencies around the world. They have put together a composite sketch of the activities of more than 50 international and local charities. Many of these charities are, or were associated with some of the major Islamic umbrella organizations headquartered in Saudi Arabia, including, but certainly not limited

to, the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Benevolence International Foundation, the al Haramian Islamic Foundation, Blessed Relief (Muwafaq) Foundation, and the Rabita Trust.

These powerful organizations have branches worldwide and are, engaged in activities related to religious, educational, social and humanitarian programs. But their support in financing Al-Qaeda was kept secret, until the two captured top al-Qaeda officials spoke out.

There is a recognized religious duty in the Muslim world to provide a set portion of ones earnings or assets for religious or charitable purposes (Zakat), and otherwise to support charitable works through voluntary deeds or contributions (Sadaqah).

In countries like Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates that have no established income tax system, the Zakat substitutes as the principal source of funding for religious, social and humanitarian organizations and activities.

Charity forms a very important part of Muslim law and tradition and the funds are collected by the Government, or though local mosques and religious centres.

Sadaqah contributions are also made directly to established Islamic charities. As both Zakat and Sadaqah are viewed as personal religious responsibilities there has traditionally been little or no government oversight of these activities. Donations in large measure remain anonymous.

Al Qaeda has still its own front charities and to solicit funds through collection boxes at mosques and Islamic centres. It has also placed operatives in key positions within established charities that are responsible to collect and transfer the money together with funds registered for legitimate relief and developmental activities.


[1] The 9/11 Commission Report and National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Monograph on Terrorist Financing, page 9.

[2] Anonymous (pseudonym of former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer: Peter Baker, “Pakistani Scientist Who Met Bin Laden Failed Polygraphs, Renewing Suspicions,” The Washington Post, March 3, 2002. The Global Jihadist Movement

[3] See The 9/11 Commission Report and National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Monograph on Terrorist Financing, page 9.

[4] See The 9/11 Commission Report, pages 22-24

[5] See generally the First and Second Reports of the Monitoring Group Established Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1363 (2001) and extended by resolutions 1390 (2002) and 1455 (2003) on sanctions against Al Qaida, The Taliban and Individuals and Entitles Associated With Them, UNDOCs S/2003/669 dated 8 July 2003 and S/2003/1070 dated 3 December 2003. On Al Qaeda’s use of the Drug Trade see Money Laundering: Current Status of our Efforts to Coordinate and Combat Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, Hearings Before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, March 4, 2004. Also Chouvy, Pierre-Arnaud; “Norco-Terrorism in Afghanistan,” Terrorism Monitor, Volume II, Issue 6, March 25, 2004. On diamonds and other precious commodities, see Farah, Douglas, Blood From Stones, and The Secret Financial Network of Terror (New York: Random House, 2004).

[6] National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Monograph on Terrorist Financing, page 5: “The U.S. intelligence community largely failed to comprehend al Qaeda’s methods of raising, moving, and storing money, because it devoted relatively few resources to collecting the strategic financial intelligence that policymakers were requesting or that would have informed the larger counterterrorism strategy.”

[7] See National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Monograph on Terrorist Financing, page 10.

[8] Second Report of the Monitoring Group Established Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1363 (2001) and extended by resolutions 1390 (2002) and 1455 (2003) on sanctions against Al Qaeda, S/2003/1070 dated 3 December 2003.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, "Paying for Terror, Treasury Department Documents Detail the Murky World of Al Qaeda’s Financing,"Newsweek (Web Exclusive), May 12, 2004.

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Finances and Networks of Al-Qaeda Terrorists
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Terror, Islamic Radicalism, Al-Qaeda, GPSC, Funding-Terrorism, hawala, Islamic Charities, Saudi Arabia, Arabia Yemen, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Italy, USA, Africa, Asia
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Professor. Dr. Girma Yohannes Iyassu Menelik (Author), 2008, Finances and Networks of Al-Qaeda Terrorists, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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