Complex Made Simple

“Crime & Terrorism – a billion dollar industry”: expert panel

The Riyadh Forum on Countering Extremism and Fighting Terrorism, under the sponsorship of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, facilitated an open discussion on confronting terrorism on May 22.

Criminal activities and terrorism have come together to create a multi-billion dollar industry, according to an expert panel at the forum.

The panel members were Professor Joseph Mifsud, Director London Academy of Diplomacy; Katherine Bauer, US Department of the Treasury; Michael Hurley, 9/11 Commission; Dr. Khalid Al Khalifa, Isa Cultural Center – Manama and Rajan Basra, Research Fellow at King’s College London.

During the discussion, Basra said: “Criminals in Europe are very involved in terror. Almost 70 per cent of foreign fighters from Germany are known to law enforcement for criminal activities not related to extremism. Prisons are where criminals and terrorists meet and radicalisation takes place.”

Close connections

The panel provided insights into the relationship between terrorist activities and criminal organisations. The connection is a close one as both terrorist and criminals profit and fund their efforts through illegal methods.

Michael Hurley said: “Petty crimes can be seen in the background of all people conducting terrorist activities in the West. These individuals are already subjects of interest to law enforcement but the connection between crime and terrorism is often overlooked.”

The panel was concerned about the relationship between prisons and radicalisation. Without developing programs and treatment within the prison system, it will continue to be a hotbed for extremists and terrorist recruitment.

In their concluding remarks, the panel outlined the worldwide connection of organised criminal activity and the financing of terror.

Katherine Bauer said: “Criminal activity in one country may be financing terrorism in other countries. We must not overlook petty crimes as they can lead to bigger terrorist activities in other areas of the world.”

Daesh and the conflict in Yemen

Another panel discussed the conflict in Yemen as a part of the regional landscape. While the focus is on combating Daesh, Al Qaeda is rebuilding itself in ungoverned areas throughout the region, according to the panelists.

The panel added that efforts of Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have resulted in a decline in the recruitment of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

The members of this panel were Nadim Koteich, Journalist; Dr. Elisabeth Kendell, Senior Fellow, University of Oxford; Dr Jack Caravelli, Senior Advisor Global Resource Partnership and Dr. Yahya Abu-Mughayid, Special Representative Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care.

In the face of a military defeat, Al Qaeda now has turned to a new tactic of addressing grassroots problem in society and helping communities as a cover for its terrorist activities, the panel said.

Koteich said: “The Islamic world looks like the Europe in 1945 and we need a cultural ‘Marshal Plan’ to rebuild our region. The alliance between terrorists and extremists is very fragile and we must use all our powers to stop terrorism by reducing violent extremism.”

Further, Dr Kendal said: “The problem with Al Qaeda in Yemen is people are accepting them and not confronting them. My research shows that more than 56 per cent of tweets analysed in Yemen were about Al Qaeda working in community development and making a positive change in Yemen.”

The panel emphasised that this tactic is gaining support in communities not only in Yemen but in several ungoverned areas in other Arab countries. Without the support of committed governments and non-governmental organisations, terrorists will manage to gain a foothold in the MENA region.

Dr Caravelli explained: “Failing states in the MENA region provide a hotbed for terrorist recruitment and activities. We must have regional leadership from countries like Saudi Arabia, to help support the governments throughout the region if we are to create stability.”

Manchester terror attack

Britain is on critical terror alert with military troops set to bolster police forces across the nation following a terror attack on May 22.

Special Forces have been deployed to Manchester ready to engage in the hunt for accomplices after Salman Abedi detonated a homemade bomb in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, killing 22 people, moments after US singer Ariana Grande finished performing.

Police and counter-terrorism agencies immediately mounted a massive inquiry, while the Islamic State terror group claimed responsibility.

A total of four people has now been arrested, including three men in south Manchester this morning (May 24).

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has raised the country’s threat level to the highest possible rating, meaning another atrocity is expected imminently.