A Security Council panel of experts that monitors Somalia produced the report, which has not yet been made public according The New York Times
NAIROBI, Kenya — The Shabab, 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 the Shabab, 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 the Shabab 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 New York Times obtained an advance copy.
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.
The Shabab 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 Shabab operatives had stored and transferred the money through accounts operated by Salaam Somali Bank, a leading bank in Somalia.
In response, the bank said that it had never “opened an account for a sanctioned individual or entity” and that it had taken unspecified actions against suspicious accounts, but it did not rule out the possibility that the Shabab had found surreptitious ways to use the bank. The country’s finance minister also acknowledged the Shabab’s ability to exploit the banking system and called the group’s financiers “very cunning.”
The report is especially damning for the Somali government, which is backed by the United States and the United Nations. They have insisted that Somalia take steps to modernize its banking so that groups like the Shabab that are under sanction cannot exploit the system’s weaknesses.
“Al-Shabab’s use of formal banking systems enables the immediate transfer and distribution of large amounts, including in areas it no longer directly controls, eliminating the risk of physically transporting cash across hostile territory,” the report said.
The Security Council’s experts on Somalia, a six-member panel based in Nairobi, are responsible for monitoring compliance with sanctions imposed on Somalia. The panel undertook the same work on Eritrea, another Horn of Africa country, until 2018, when sanctions there were lifted after Eritrea mended relations with neighboring Ethiopia.
In past years, the panel’s reports have examined topics such as how food aid in Somalia was redirected by corrupt contractors and how the Shabab’s bomb-making operations became sophisticated.
Image The wreckage of a car after a bomb exploded in Mogadishu in January.Credit…Feisal Omar/Reuters
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