top of page

Strapped For Cash, al-Qaeda Turns To Drug Trafficking and Kidnapping

In a sign that efforts by the international community are stemming the primary financing sources of al-Qaeda, the group has recently become active in drug trafficking and kidnapping activities to support its operations.

Previously, al-Qaeda did not have trouble raising money from wealthy Middle Eastern donors and Islamic charities supportive of the group’s war against the West.  However, as western financial firms have been prohibited from doing business with organizations with known al-Qaeda ties and governments have become more effective at tracking financing networks, the terror group has been forced to seek alternate funding.

One source has been drug trafficking and other international crime.  Though al-Qaeda’s founder, Osama Bin Laden, did not initially want the group involved in such activities for religious reasons, the opportunities in drug and arms smuggling have apparently proven too lucrative to resist.  Coupled with an increasingly critical need to address diminishing resources for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda leaders have justified the new activities as necessary to meeting the group’s ultimate objectives.

U.S. officials view the trend as a sign that al-Qaeda is, perhaps, in its weakest financial state in many years.  Cooperative networks among western governments has led to al-Qaeda–linked assets being frozen and suspected donors being isolated from the mainstream global financial system.  Though these efforts have apparently had meaningful effect, al-Qaeda’s new business model will pose new challenges to finance officials around the world.


bottom of page