Harakat Al-Shabaab al Mujahideen (just known as Al-Shabaab) is the official affiliate of Al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa region. The terror organization has been unswervingly wreaking havoc in Somalia and neighboring countries, killing thousands of people in close to the three decades it has been active. Al-Shabaab has been seeking to install a government inspired by strict Sharia law in Somalia built upon radical ideologies that were born from a nationalist dogma.
In the group’s quest to implement their agenda, they have attracted numerous domestic and even global sympathizers that have both directly and indirectly bankrolled the group’s activities. International organizations, business people in the diaspora as well as mosques are some of the key external financiers of the Al-Shabaab. Importantly, external financiers and sympathizers have been termed as among the top major threat to Somalia’s and regional security and the most strategic cog in the fight against Al-Shabaab and other terror organizations.
Intelligence reports have uncovered links between certain mosques abroad and charity organizations that have been directly implicated in the transfer of funds and siphoning monies to fund Al-Shabaab activities both in East Africa as well as lone attacks abroad, linked to Al-Shabaab. External financiers are some of the most difficult to track and curtail as they are majorly anonymous and tend to use both legitimate and back channels to funnel money to groups like Al-Shabaab. Moreover, when masquerading as charities and using the front as a cover, it can be even more grim as they appear authentic and being used to help the destitute in the war-torn Somalia.
Al-Fourqaan Mosque and Al-Waqf-al-Islami Foundation from Netherlands
- A Salafi mosque and a charity and located in Eindhoven, Netherlands where a series of suspicious activity transfer of money dating to as far as early 2000s indicate and intricate network that has siphoned money to Al-Shabaab both directly through to Somalia and or via Kenya.
- A deep-dive through majority of the transactions from Al-Fourqaan mosque and a subsidiary charity called Al-Waqf-al-Islami Foundation remitted to Kenya and Somalia are traceable to Al-Shabaab. There is a clear financial track that confirms the from as early as 2002, the mosque which was ran by Sudanese and Somali clerics sent money to Al-Shabaab through money transfers and Hawalas (a traditional money transfer system used by Muslims).
- Al-Fourqaan mosque has been home to numerous radical Imams with ties to East Africa, some of them like Sudan-born Eisha Altayeb Bersham alias Abu-Tariq who was expelled from the Netherlands for propagating radical ideologies. Abu Tariq wasn’t the only Imam with ties to Al-Shabaab as other imams and clerics including Kenyans were expelled too.
- Additionally, A Saudi national Adil Hamad Abderrahman Alhusayni, is listed as the owner of Al-Fourqaan Mosque in the Netherlands and whose brother was a member of the ‘Golden Circle’ a list of 20 financiers of the Al-Qaeda terror organization.
- Al-Fourqaan Mosque and its affiliate charities have on numerous occasions payed for weapons purchased from a Nigerian arms dealer called Laolu Saraki who is a major black market weapon’s supplier to Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
Proxy Jihad Donations
Tajheez AlGhazi is a form of sponsorship which ‘allows those who cannot, or will not, join the Jihad physically for whatever reason, to achieve the honor and ‘heavenly reward’ of waging jihad by proxy through financial contributions. Al-Shabaab by aligning itself with Al-Qaeda made it appear more attractive to such donors whose contributions may balance the reduction in diaspora funds.
- One of the major sources of proxy jihad funds is easily traced across the Europe, Canada, America and countries in the Arab Peninsula through a money transfer agency that has been on the terrorism watchlist and eve uses a wide array of names including Taaj and Qaran services. It has branches across the globe from where anonymous donors can send money to Al-Shabaab both in Kenya and Somalia.
- The company and its various branches and subsidiaries use different company names especially in the Salafi-majority communities in Europe to camouflage the suspicious transactions that furnish Al-Shabaab with the means to conduct attack in the East African region.
- Wealthy Somali business people in the diaspora use the network to funnel funds to the Al-Shabaab, relatives affiliated to the group and often to Al-Shabaab kidnappers which by extension fund the activities of the terror organization.
Bellevue Mosque and al-Haramain Foundation
- Bellevue Mosque is a mosque in Gothenburg area in Sweden that is administered by Somali-dominated Islamic Sunni Centre Denomination and that advocates the Salafi movement of Islam. The mosque is said to have been created using funds from a Saudi Arabia charity organization al-Haramain Foundation that has direct financial ties to Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab.
- Al-Qaeda provided funds to a suspect in the November 2002 bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya, using with sympathizers inside Al-Haramain and other Islamic charities. A wholesale fish business financed with Al-Haramain funds used some of its profits to help the Al-Qaeda cell behind the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in East Africa. Al-Haramain has been used to sponsor Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda linked attacks in East Africa.
Bitcoin and Crowdfunding
As governments and global financial laws cap loopholes and methods that can be used to remit funds to terror groups such as Al-Shabaab, coupled with rifts and loss of territories, groups have more elite ways to get funds. Financial newcomers like cryptocurrency and crowdfunding to enhance privacy, anonymity and untraceability of transaction involving terror organization and their networks.
- Cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum offer quick transfer of funds that is untraceable through the internet cutting out the middleman and physical meetings and as such enhancing anonymity of donors. The funds can later we used to pay for weapons and other logistics without the cogs and or participants meeting face to face.
- On the other hand, crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Terror fundraising especially on social media networks has been on the rise and is replacing older and traditional money generating avenues. Thus, mosques, charities and donors can use the two platforms to remain anonymous and still remit the cash to Al-Shabaab, pay for attacks or even weapons.
The aforementioned mosques, charities and sources of Al-Shabaab funding are not exclusively the only source of income for the terror network. They stand out as they have consistently funded the terror organization for over a decade. Charities are able to camouflage their involvement in terror activities because they operate in marginalized areas where funds cane be easily moved without a trace. Modern and technologically advanced methods like bitcoin and crowdfunding are being used by terror financers to channel funds into jihadists organizations like Al-Shabaab.