No Money for Terror: World economy lost $900bn in 20 years due to terrorism

Identifying and disrupting sources of finance is one of the most difficult challenges in the fight against terrorism. Terrorism is funded in large part by money laundering, drug trafficking, donations from hardline religious groups, and kidnappings for ransom, among other things.

No Money for Terror: World economy lost $900bn in 20 years due to terrorism

New Delhi: Addressing the ‘No Money for Terror’ conference in New Delhi on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for penalising countries supporting terrorism as part of their foreign policy, in an indirect reference to Pakistan. While jihadi havens Pakistan and Afghanistan were not invited to the summit, China, which has repeatedly sided with Islamabad-backed terror entities at world forums, decided to skip the event.

One of the major challenges in the fight against terror is identifying and disrupting sources of finance. Terrorism is sustained by huge finances generated from money laundering, drug trafficking, donations from hardline religious groups and kidnappings for ransom, among others. As per estimates, the amount of money laundered every year is 2-5 per cent of the global GDP (2-5 trillion USD). On the other hand, global drug trafficking is estimated to be a 32 billion USD industry.

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Over the years, the world economy has paid a heavy price due to terrorism. From 2000-19, it lost a whopping $900bn to terror activities. The biggest loss was in 2014 ($115.8bn), when ISIS was at its peak, seizing territories in Iraq and Syria at will.

But as the world economy suffered, terror groups got richer. In 2016, according to a Forbes report, ISIS had an annual turnover of $2bn, while Hamas raked in $1bn every year. Some other groups doubled their earnings between 2016 and 2018. For example, Hezbollah’s annual turnover increased from $500mn to $1.1bn, the Taliban’s from $400mn to $800mn, and Al Qaeda’s from $150mn to $300mn in just two years. The Taliban now control an entire country!

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Africa has turned out to be another hotbed of Islamic terrorism. Boko Haram, Al Shabaab and various ISIS chapters have taken over large swathes of territory, enforcing massive casualties on government forces and civilians alike. All these groups have made a fortune from taxes, kidnappings, drug trafficking and donations.

Needless to say, countries where they operate report maximum casualties in terror activities. The seven countries of Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Somalia, Mali, Niger, Iraq and Syria account for seven out of 10 deaths due to terrorism worldwide. In 2020 and 2021, Afghanistan reported 2,678 deaths due to terrorism, followed by Burkina Faso (1,390), Somalia (1,265), Mali (1,240) and Niger (845).

These countries, therefore, also rank high in the Global Terrorism Index. Afghanistan tops the chart with a score of 9.11, followed by Iraq (8.51) and Somalia (8.4).

Since the beginning of 2021, there have been at least five terror attacks that killed over 100 people each. A double car bombing in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu in the last week of October claimed at least 120 lives. The attack was claimed by Al Shabaab. In August last year, an ISKP suicide bomber killed at least 180 people at Kabul international airport. The blast took place as thousands of people were camping at the airport to escape Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Back home, India has been cracking down on IS- and Muslim Brotherhood-inspired radicals, apart from those trained and funded by Pakistan. Left-wing extremism and secessionist movements in the Northeast are also being dealt with. The Centre has taken a multi-pronged approach to deal with the menace – cut off funding, encourage devel opment in militancy-hit areas, perks for surrender and neutralising the rest.

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