May 13, 2019

Can Alshabaab turn to Bitcoin to fund their activities?

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Terrorist groups have often devised ingenious ways of acquiring and transporting funding. From direct extortion, to pseudo NGO’s to mobile money transfer as was seen before the Dusit attacks in Nairobi, terror groups always seem to find cracks to exploit and in so doing execute some of the most horrific attacks. Anti-terror agencies have however managed to plug most of these channels and have left terror groups with new challenges in making their money untraceable.

Cryptocurrencies and their use in the financing of terror activities have been a subject of much debate in recent times. While some argue that the use of digital currencies by terrorist groups is largely hyped, others suggest that digital currencies provide a safe option for terrorists to raise funds without running the risk of being tracked.

In recent days, however, these fears have been renewed when it came to light that Gaza-based terror outfit, Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigade has asked its supporters to donate using bitcoin. It was discovered that this outfit had in operation a single crypto wallet bitcoin address and that they were urging their supporters and donors to use it via their website. According to research by a U.K.-based blockchain analysis firm Elliptic, between March 26 and April 16 2019, bitcoin worth $3,300 was sent to crypto wallets created by the group’s website.

While it might be easy to locate and track one crypto wallet, another possible method to evade tracking could be to use multiple crypto wallets, or wallets that re-create with every transaction. This while not yet considering the high number of crypto-currencies now available to the internet user, which would make the task that much harder. This raises a pertinent concern for Kenya with Alshabaab if they were to adopt such means.

It is imperative that anti-terrorism agencies across the world be able to anticipate and clamp down on any innovations and technological advances that could make terrorist activities easier. It, however, provides solace in knowing that Kenya’s security forces remain vigilant and are akin to these developments.

Article Categories:
Al Shabaab · CounterTerrorism

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