Amid Afghan uncertainties, India must weed out terror financing

By Mahua Venkatesh

New Delhi, Jul 22 (IANS): As uncertainties rise in Afghanistan with the Taliban making rapid inroads, India will have to be watchful over terror money flowing into the country. The landscape for terror financing has altered in the last year due to the Covid 19 pandemic and authorities need to be adequately prepared, sources said.

"The situation has led to serious concerns for Indian authorities and their monitoring needs to increase. We need to be particularly monitoring the developments in Jammu and Kashmir along with Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)," an insider told India Narrative.

Reports have already suggested that terror outfits with a focus on Kashmir are active and could target India and as the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) pointed out, "terrorism is the business of violence and, like any business, requires money."

"The geopolitical developments, especially in Afghanistan, needs to be closely monitored and countries including India must increase their vigil to rule out any untoward incident," BK Singh, former joint commissioner of Delhi Police, told India Narrative.

But as the pandemic pushed people to adopt technology and switch to online transactions, new challenges have emerged for authorities to track unaccounted terror money.

"The pattern and sources of financing have undergone a massive shift due to pandemic related stress. This has made it very difficult for authorities to track the quantum or the source of inflow of money," Singh said.

In June VOA, it is said that donations to the Afghan Taliban were on an upswing in Pakistan border regions as the militant group intensified attacks against Afghan forces.

"Multiple sources and eyewitnesses on the ground with knowledge of these donations have confirmed to VOA that fundraising for the Taliban has continued in various parts of Pakistan," the report pointed out.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), meanwhile, said that the pandemic has led to an increase in crimes, including fraud, cybercrime, misdirection or exploitation of government funds or international financial assistance, which is creating new sources of proceeds for illicit actors.

During the crisis, more than 60 million new accounts have been opened using digital onboarding, FATF Executive Secretary, David Lewis said earlier. However, what is worrisome is that not every digital ID is reliable.

Lewis added that the pandemic has left many businesses or individuals in financial need and they make easy targets for criminals "who may exploit them to take part in money-laundering activity" by using it as a front for illegal activity.

The sources from which terrorist groups and individuals draw funds may be diverse and will depend on the structure of the group as well as contextual opportunities and limitations, the EFSAS study said, adding that the costs directly associated with terrorist attacks are surprisingly low.

According to EFSAS, the 2002 Bali bombings cost around $50,000 while the 2005 London bombings about $15,000 and the 2004 Madrid attacks would have approximately cost $10,000. However, the 9/11 attacks were expensive ranging between $350,000 and $500,000 – "as they involved at least 19 hijackers who needed to be accommodated, flown out to America and given pilot training."


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