Al Qaeda has turned to online gangsters that are part of the Russian mafia to help it move its money around the web and develop extremist websites.
The online gangs, which routinely deal in online pornography, credit card theft, ID fraud and paedophilia have been recruited by Al-Qaeda to help run its extremist websites and protect them from the security services, and to help fund raise for the terrorists.
“The Russian mafia have developed a network of computer sites that are very well secured so that they are protected from law-enforcement to run their illicit sex sites
“Because they are already beyond the law in what they are offering, providing space on the same servers that they are using to host pornography on, to extremist web sites is just simply exploiting a business opportunity,” said Dr Mark Galeotti, Director of Keele University’s Organised Russian & Eurasian Crime Research Unit.
The irony of the Moslem extremists who have promised retribution on the UK over the knighthood of Salman Rushdie sharing computer space with the images of female nudity and explicit sex that Al Qaeda would like to see banned, is conveniently explained away by the terrorists, who say that the websites are examples of Western decadence and corruption that are being turned on the West for its own destruction.
The relationship between Al-Qaeda and organised crime has been developing since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre following moves by the intelligence agencies to track down and disrupt Al-Qaeda’s funding.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the terrorist organisation sought to recruit Russian academics working in African universities to try to move funds from banks in the Middle East.
The attempt foundered because the Russians were not considered to be ideologically committed.
“The problem with the extremist is that they do not provide a friendly environment if they do not think you are religiously or ideologically sympathetic to them, because of that they are now buying services from the criminal gangs – it’s strictly business.”
“There’s a lot of geek level technologists available to the terrorists now but if you do want something to be done to a high level then you do need to get in the professionals,” said Galeotti.
As a result of that ‘business relationship’ the Russian crime gangs took over the movement of funds for Al Qaeda, charging it interest at 75% due to the risk involved and the amount of interest that they could incur from Western intelligence agencies.
The close association between Islamic terrorists and organised crime has now taken another step with computer security companies investigating online credit card theft reporting that for the first time that they are beginning to see servers involved in the criminal activity based in Iraq and Western Pakistan.
“Computer criminals are attracted by lawless areas, “ said Raimund Genes, Chief Technology Officer of computer security company Trend Micro. “There are servers in China and the Dominican Republic that are also involved in this activity but we are now also seeing them in areas of Iraq and Pakistan that are beyond the control of the law. There is definitely an attraction for cybercrime in lawless areas.”
But according to terrorism experts the location of criminal computers in the geographic areas that are most sympathetic to Osama Bin Laden is evidence of a new twist in the relationship between the gangsters and the terrorists.
“Money is making its way from the computer criminals back to the terrorists they are beginning to see funding opportunities,” said Galeotti. “It may not yet be direct but they will be paying rent to get their computers protected by the Jihadists and it may not be making it’s money directly into the terrorist’s coffers but it is making it’s way to Jihadists.”