Jihadis Debate Methods of Financing the Mujahideen Network in Iraq

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 32

Deputy al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has released several video tapes advocating financial assistance for the organization

The main objective of jihadi Websites and forums is to garner support for the Mujahideen on various levels, the most important of which is fundraising and transferring money to the battlefields, essential for the continuity of terrorist operations. To that end, Jihadi forums intermittently appeal to Salafi-Jihadi supporters to donate money while explaining secure methods of transferring money. A recent posting entitled “The Fourth campaign: Conduct Jihad with Your Money,” describes methods used in a new campaign to finance Iraq’s mujahideen (hanein.info, Thread of September 15 to October 9).  

A jihadi forum member, nicknamed Abdullah, began the posting with a long pep talk to fellow members regarding the religious virtue of donating money for jihad that quoted verses from the Quran that equate donations to jihad with active participation in the field. Abdullah calls upon the Iraqi mujahideen to support each other financially, logistically and through the sharing of information and intelligence: “Some Iraqi jihadi formations suffer from a lack of funding. They became the poorest mujahideen on Iraqi soil for refusing conditional support. They became day laborers and jihadi lions and monks at night.” Abdullah appealed to Muslim scholars and merchants everywhere to donate to jihad activities.

The new campaign has the following objectives:

• Deal with the shortfall in jihadi funding.

• Promote the exchange of financial support between jihadi formations. The well-funded groups must support the others. According to Abdullah, information from the inside confirms that some jihadi groups have not received a single dollar in the last 18 months while some jihadi forum members make one thousand dollars per month in salary.

• Revive the idea of financial support of jihad as a religious duty, a concept that was abandoned by many Muslim scholars and businessmen.

• Provide financial support to the families of martyrs.

• Provide financial support to jihadi media efforts.

This two-month campaign, according to Abdullah, was launched by two Iraqi jihadi factions, Jaysh al-Rashideen and Jaysh Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas, and will be managed through their respective websites, al-rashedeen.info and saadarmy.com.

The first step in the fundraising process is to contact these factions through their websites to specify the amount of money to be donated and the name of the donor. The donor is given contact details for the faction’s representative and a code word to identify himself to the representative through the website. After converting the money to dollars, the donor is instructed to go to a bank and specify the name of the recipient and his mobile phone number. Then the recipient is given a 10-digit wire number.  Abdullah claims the banks will not question wire transfers of less than $700. The smaller the amount, the better, says Abdullah, since wires for small amounts are not monitored.

Secondly, the money wires should be sent to jihadi representatives in Syria, Jordan and Turkey. The jihadi factions’ representatives in these countries will then smuggle the money into Iraq.   

Other forum chatters criticized Abdullah’s instructions, saying intelligence services monitoring the websites could easily identify the recipient and the code word. Abdullah responded by arguing that this is only one of sixty other ways of sending money to the mujahideen that he cannot reveal over the internet.

From the comments and deliberations of other forum members on Abdullah’s posting, it is obvious that jihadis are aware their websites are monitored by security agencies. When contacted by donors they will assuredly provide safer means of sending the donations, therefore it seems that this posting attempts to serves two purposes:

• Mislead security services into forcing further constraints on ordinary business transactions, consequently slowing down economic growth. Economic disruption is one of al-Qaeda’s main goals.  

• Identify possible financial donors and contact them by other safer methods.   

Al-Qaeda has proven more capable of raising and transferring money than the Iraqi factions. In last year’s Hajj (pilgrimage) season, al-Qaeda supporters collected cash donations from pilgrims by showing videotaped appeals for financial assistance from deputy al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, stored on mobile phones. The money was later carried in person through Saudi Arabia’s busy borders as millions of pilgrims returned home (altwafoq.net September 28). A similar video message by Saeed al-Shahri, deputy al-Qaeda leader in Yemen, has been distributed by mobile phone in the lead-up to this November’s Hajj season.  

Another unsophisticated but difficult to track means of transferring money is what could be labeled as the “verbal wire” or the “unofficial wire,” a method the jihadis call “hawala.” Some jihadi websites and forums such as alnusrra.net and alboraq.inf ask donors to contact them through their websites. Once contact is made, the donor is instructed to give the donation to a certain representative in the donor’s country, then a phone call is made by that contact to another contact person in the recipient country requesting a cash payment to the jihadi group. No official wire records are made, with the whole system depending on trust between the two contact persons, both of whom usually run legitimate or front companies as part of the setup for jihadi fundraising. The verbal “hawala” is impossible to track unless the identity of the two contact persons is revealed and their calls monitored by security forces.