- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Islamic State has raked in $35 million to $45 million in ransom payments over the past year, according to a U.N. counterterrorism official who says the terrorists’ kidnapping operation “continues to grow.”

The figures suggests the Islamic State is far more effective in ransom collection than other al Qaeda-inspired outfits in the Middle East and North Africa, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which is estimated to have received some $75 million in ransoms over the past four years.

Lalji Yotsna, a U.N. expert monitoring sanctions against al Qaeda groups, told the U.N. Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee on Monday that an estimated $120 million in ransom was paid to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012.

That figure has risen notably in more recent years — as demonstrated by the money being collected by the Islamic State, according to The Associated Press, which first reported Ms. Lalji’s remarks.

Ms. Lalji said al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates from Yemen, received $20 million in ransom between 2011 and 2013, and that recent years have seen al Qaeda and its affiliates make kidnapping “the core al Qaeda tactic for generating revenue.”



She pointed to an October 2012 recording in which al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri called on militants worldwide to kidnap Westerners.

While AQAP and AQIM appear to be have made more money from the tactic over the past two years, the Islamic State’s ransom numbers are most notable. Mrs. Lalji put the group’s kidnapping revenue for the past year higher than what U.S. intelligence officials have reported.

Last month, the Treasury Department’s top official tracking terrorist financing, David S. Cohen, said that, apart from a handful of state-sponsored militant groups in the world, the Islamic State is likely the “best-funded terrorist organization” that Washington has ever faced.

But Mr. Cohen estimated that the group had grabbed only about $20 million in ransoms over the past year.

Mr. Cohen said the Islamic State, also known by the acronym ISIL, has “grabbed the world’s attention for its outlandish ambitions and astounding brutality, but also for another reason: its substantial wealth. ISIL’s primary funding tactics enable it today to generate tens of millions of dollars per month.

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