Islamic State, the self-proclaimed extremist caliphate which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq, has received between US$35 million and US$45 million in ransom payments in the past year.
The money was part of an estimated US$120 million paid to terrorists worldwide between 2004 and 2012, the Associated Press reported, citing a United Nations expert monitoring sanctions against al Qaeda.
Yotsna Lalji told a UN anti-terror panel that al Qaeda and its affiliates have made kidnapping “the core al Qaeda tactic for generating revenue”, the report said.
She pointed to an Oct. 2012 recording in which al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri incites militants worldwide to kidnap westerners.
Lalji said al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, received US$20 million in ransom between 2011 and 2013, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa, received US$75 million over the past four years.
She said the al Qaeda-linked extremist groups Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia also “have collected millions of dollars over the past years,” and the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines has received about US$1.5 million in ransom.
The vast majority of victims are nationals kidnapped within their own country.
Last week, US President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the United States responds when its citizens are taken hostage overseas in light of the beheadings of Americans by Islamic State militants.
However, the US won’t its longstanding policy of refusing to pay ransom.
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