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

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.


Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

Updated 17 min 56 sec ago

Protests flare as India’s parliament set to vote on citizenship bill

  • Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi
NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Hindu nationalists pushed for final parliamentary approval on Wednesday for a law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution by granting citizenship to non-Muslim minorities from three neighboring countries.

Having obtained assent from the lower house of parliament a day earlier, Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the Citizenship Amendment Bill in the upper house and a vote is expected late on Wednesday.

Opposition parties, minority groups, academics and a US federal panel have contested the proposed law, which would for the first time provide a legal route to Indian citizenship based on religion, calling it discriminatory against Muslims.

The bill seeks to give citizenship to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs, who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.

Protests against the bill turned violent on Wednesday in India’s ethnically diverse northeastern region, with the army deploying troops in Tripura state and putting reinforcements on standby in neighboring Assam, where police battled thousands of protesters.

Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters, who had blocked roads with flaming tires.

“The bill will take away our rights, language and culture with millions of Bangladeshis getting citizenship,” said Gitimoni Dutta, a college student at the protest.

Despite Shah’s assurances that safeguards will be put in place, people in Assam and surrounding states fear an influx of settlers could lead to a competition for land and upset the region’s demographic balance.

In northern India, thousands of students at Aligarh Muslim University began a hunger strike in protest.

Some opposition Muslim politicians have argued that the bill is targeted against the community, accusing the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for trying to render them “stateless.”

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi, if India adopts the legislation.

Introducing the bill in the upper house, Shah defended his government’s move, saying the new law only sought to help minorities persecuted in Muslim-majority countries contiguous with India.

“For India’s Muslims, there is nothing to worry about, nothing to debate. They are citizens, and will remain citizens,” Shah said.

Unlike the lower house, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a clear majority, the ruling party will likely find it more challenging to push the bill through the upper house, as it is unclear whether it can garner enough support from regional parties.