Al Shabaab, the Somalia-based militant group that is Al Qaeda’s most powerful ally in Africa, is not only collecting millions of dollars in tariffs and payoffs but moving the money through local banks and even investing it in real estate and businesses, according to a new United Nations Security Council report. The report describes how al Shabaab, known for suicide attacks and a severe interpretation of Islam that bans music and other pleasures, have diversified their funding streams. Although financial dealings with al Shabaab are prohibited under Security Council sanctions, the report said the group had found ways to expand from strictly cash transactions into utilizing bank accounts and electronic mobile services to save, transfer and invest money. A Security Council panel of experts that monitors Somalia produced the report, which has not yet been made public. The group charges vehicles transporting goods, demands that businesses pay a monthly fee and forcibly collects zakat, the annual alms that observant Muslims are expected to pay. Al Shabaab also have penetrated Mogadishu’s port, blackmailing importers to pay a levy on goods, the report said. In all the cases the report documented, business owners paid up, citing threats and violence if they refused. The report found evidence that al Shabaab operatives had stored and transferred the money through accounts operated by Salaam Somali Bank, a leading bank in Somalia.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES