Smuggling trade through Iran earns Al-Shabab militants $7.5m a year

A Somalian soldier walks past a consignment of charcoal destined for the export market in Barawe. (REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo)
Updated 10 October 2018
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Smuggling trade through Iran earns Al-Shabab militants $7.5m a year

  • Report by UN sanctions monitors reveals illicit exports funding insurgency in Somalia
  • Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, illegally exports charcoal to Iranian ports using fake country of origin certificates from Comoros, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

NEW YORK: Al-Shabab militants in Somalia are funding their extremism with $7.5 million a year from smuggling through transit points in Iran, according to a new UN report.

The group, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, illegally exports charcoal to Iranian ports using fake country of origin certificates from Comoros, Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The charcoal is packaged into white bags labeled “Product of Iran,” loaded on to Iranian-flagged dhows and re-exported to Dubai in the UAE. “The charcoal trade continues to be a significant source of revenue for Al-Shabab, generating at least $7.5 million from checkpoint taxation,” according to the report by UN sanctions monitors submitted to the Security Council.

The report estimated the wholesale value of illicit Somali charcoal to be $150 million a year in the UAE, where it is widely used for cooking and smoking shisha.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s new ambassador to the UN, said the country was not complicit in the smuggling trade.
“The UAE is fully aware of all Security Council resolutions and is in full compliance with the sanctions imposed,” she said. “We also reaffirm our continued cooperation with the monitoring group throughout its mandate.”

The monitors track compliance with UN sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea. The Security Council banned charcoal exports from Somalia in 2012 in an effort to cut off funds for Al-Shabab, who are trying to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and impose its own extremist rule.

The council also imposed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the country into war.
In addition to earnings from charcoal, Al-Shabab is making millions of dollars a year from tolls on vehicles in areas where they run checkpoints, and through taxes on businesses, agriculture and livestock.

“Employing mafia-style tactics, the group is able to levy taxation via a network of hinterland checkpoints, with collection of taxes enforced through violence and intimidation,” the UN report said. Truck drivers risked execution if they tried to avoid the checkpoints.

All this “generates more than enough revenue to sustain its insurgency.” One checkpoint, 160km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, earns the group about $30,000 a day — $10 million a year.


Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

Updated 41 min 38 sec ago
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Afghan vote enters second day after series of bloody attacks, claims of mismanagement

  • Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday
  • On Sunday the Election Commission sent more ballot papers for 401 polling stations where people could not vote owing to attacks and irregularities

KABUL: Voting resumed for a second day on Sunday in Afghanistan where the process was marred by bloody attacks and claims of massive irregularities that deprived hundreds of thousands of people of votes for a new parliament.
The mismanagement claims have been seen as another sign of the government’s inefficiency in holding the ballot, which already has faced a delay of more than three years and comes six months ahead of the presidential vote.
The government said it added several thousand more forces to the 50,000 troops already deployed, to further protect some of the sites where polls could not be held on Saturday.
The Election Commission said more than three million people out of 8.8 million managed to cast their vote on Saturday and that on Sunday it had sent sufficient ballot papers and deployed officials to cover for 401 polling stations where people could not vote because of attacks and irregularities the previous day.
Ali Reza Rohani, a spokesman for the Electoral Complaints Commission, said in a news conference on Sunday that the irregularities that took place on Saturday would “damage the transparency” of the elections.
He said biometric devices, put in place to curb fraud, could not work in some stations, including Kabul, and various stations had not received the list of voters who had registered months ago for the ballot.
He said some stations opened an hour late.
The election is seen as key for Afghanistan’s political stability and legitimacy.
The government had already announced that polls could not take place in more than 2,000 voting stations because of security threats.
The Taliban staged scores of attacks on Saturday in a number of provinces including Kabul where at least 18 people died in two strikes. Unofficial estimates showed that over 70 civilians were killed and more than 300 wounded.
The casualties and irregularities were both unprecedented compared to election-related problems and violence that had happened in all of the previous rounds of elections held since the Taliban’s ouster.
Transparent Election Foundations of Afghanistan (TEFA), a polls watchdog, in its latest finding while citing the irregularities, said it could not operate fully to observe the process on Saturday because of security threats and because it was barred by the election commission and government from having access to election centers.
“It created many challenges for TEFA’s observers, for instance, 65 percent of our female observers left the polling centers because of security reasons, and unavailability of cellular connections in some of the provinces,” it said in a statement.
“In 29 percent of the polling centers, our observers were not allowed by IEC workers, security forces and armed men to observe the counting process.”