In the wake of a horrific attack on a Kenyan shopping centre, the world is now discovering how the killers were funded. What is the link between terrorism and organised crime?
As Kenya begins a three-day period of national mourning for the victims of a brutal terrorist attack on a shopping mall, the world’s media have turned their attention on the group which carried out the killing. And much of its funding, it appears, comes from a surprising source.
Al Shabaab is a militant organisation with a radically conservative ideology based on a fundamentalist reading of Islam. In Somalia, where it is based, al Shabaab has been fighting a devastating civil war. Much of the country is still under the militants’ control, and some of the group’s money comes from exploiting the wealth of those areas.
But in the past two years, with aid from an alliance of countries including Kenya, al Shabaab has been driven out of many key cities – including the Somali capital Mogadishu. Needing new sources of income, the terrorists turned to a luxury product available in relative abundance on the African plains: ivory.
This so-called ‘white gold’ is produced from elephant tusks. And under international agreements, trade in freshly harvested tusks is strictly banned. Yet delicately sculpted ivory goods still sell in markets from Manhattan to Beijing for hefty sums. Every elephant a poacher catches can earn them over £600 per tusk.
Al Shabaab is now estimated to earn around 40% of its revenues from the poaching of elephants and other protected species. And it is not the first time that extremists have terrorised animals as well as humans. The Lord’s Resistance Army, a notorious militia which has ravaged Central Africa for decades, also earned much of its money from poaching. More....