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Why are terrorist groups so amazingly rich?

Today’s most active terrorist groups, like ISIS or al-Qaeda, have more money at their disposal than ever before. In an interview with the Swiss “Beobachter”, GCSP Senior Programme Advisor and Cluster Responsible for Terrorism and Organized Crime, Dr Christina Schori-Liang, identifies the increasing role terrorist groups play on criminal markets as one of the reasons for their growing wealth. 

While undertakings in all sorts of traditional criminal markets – from drug to arms trafficking – rose to unprecedented levels, in particular, the systematic involvement in abductions and human trafficking in recent years seems to be a novel aspect. For some terrorist groups like Boko Haram and al-Shabaab the latter type of activity plays a key role in their strategy.

However, the blame for this unsettling development is not to be sought within fragile states or corrupt governments alone, but also in the failure of Western governments to stop money transfers from terrorist sources. Given that terrorist cells in Western countries finance themselves largely independently and that the Islamic State is still using the international banking system to transfer their income from illegal trades, much more effort is needed on the international level, Schori-Liang concludes.


>> Read the full interview here (in German)