Islamic State, Al-Qaeda have increased online propaganda, warns FATF

 The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have increased online propaganda to incite unaffiliated individuals to launch attacks and to raise funds since last year and the risk of “self-financed, radicalised lone actor terrorists” is significant, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has warned.

The multilateral watchdog expressed “grave concern” over a series of terror attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq and other regions, including Africa and South Asia, in a special statement issued at the conclusion of its plenary meeting on Thursday. 

The plenary is the decision-making body of FATF, and delegates representing 205 members of the Global Network and observer organisations, including the International Monetary Fund and the UN, participated in the hybrid meeting.

“The threat of terrorism remains serious in many regions of the world,” the statement said, adding that the recent terror attacks, claimed either by Islamic State or Da’esh and its “affiliated groups, or conducted by lone attackers inspired by them”, had killed or injured hundreds, mostly civilians. 

“Since 2020, both ISIL and Al-Qaeda have increased their online propaganda, either to incite unaffiliated individuals to launch attacks, or to raise funds. The risk of self-financed, radicalised lone actor terrorists remains significant,” the statement said. 

FATF concluded that both groups have “increasingly turned to new payment technologies to raise, move and deploy funds”, and the use of virtual assets by terrorists remains a risk. 

“In addition, the risk emanating from expansion of affiliates of ISIL and Al-Qaeda has been increasing over the past years,” the watchdog said. 

Both Islamic State and Al-Qaeda have a presence in Afghanistan, which was taken over by the Taliban following the collapse of the elected government in mid-August. In a separate statement also issued on Thursday, FATF had warned “about the current and evolving money laundering and terrorist financing risk environment” in Afghanistan. 

The territorial defeat of the Islamic State in 2019 had significantly impacted its ability to generate revenue, but the group is “still able to raise and receive funds, through legal and illegal sources, and maintains roughly $25-50 million in reserves”, FATF said. 

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“These funds help the group to sustain some activities and to seek a potential resurgence. Proceeds generated from criminal activities remain an important financing source for ISIL,” it added. 

In order to increase its revenues, the Islamic State has “focused on looting local civilians and businesses, and has generated funds through kidnapping for ransom, extortion of oil networks in Eastern Syria, and possibly through the trafficking of human beings and the trafficking of antiquities previously looted”. The group also “generates funds from investments in small and medium-sized businesses”.

On the other hand, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have “consistent streams of revenue generated from various sources, including contributions and donations from their supporters, proceeds generated from criminal activities such as drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and illicit taxation of smuggled goods, as well as revenues generated from investments in legal businesses”. 

In some instances, these terror groups collected and transferred funds under the disguise of charitable activities.

While continuing with its focus on countering terror financing, the FATF has completed projects to analyse the terrorist financing risks associated with illegal arms trafficking and with ethnically or racially motivated terrorism. It has launched projects to study money laundering and terror financing risks emanating from migrant smuggling. 

The watchdog is also gathering and sharing information on the financing of Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and will produce “updated risk indicators to help the public and private sectors detect terrorist financing”.



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