Yousaf al-Salafi, allegedly the head of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Pakistan, has reportedly confessed to receiving funds channeled through the U.S. for use in recruiting militants to fight in the Syrian civil war.
According to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, an affiliate of the International New York Times, Pakistani authorities said on Jan. 22 that they arrested al-Salafi, a Pakistani-Syrian, with two other ISIS operatives, in Lahore.
But a Pakistani security source told the Urdu-language Daily Express, a sister publication of the English-language The Express Tribune, that al-Salafi was in fact arrested in December, but the arrest was just being publicly announced in January.
He entered Pakistan about five months ago from Syria, travelling through Turkey on a mission to recruit Pakistani fighters for the Islamic State in the Syrian war. It was previously reported that he was arrested in Turkey, but he apparently escaped and entered Pakistan.
He reportedly confessed to receiving about $600 for every recruit he sent to Syria and that he was working with the support of an unnamed Islamic cleric in charge of a mosque in Pakistan.
The source told The Express Tribune that during interrogation, al-Salafi revealed that his drive to recruit militants in Pakistan to fight in Syria was being funded by money routed through the U.S.
“During the investigations, Yousaf al-Salafi revealed that he was getting funding – routed through America – to run the organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria.”
“The US has been condemning the IS activities but unfortunately has not been able to stop funding of these organizations, which is being routed through the US. The US had to dispel the impression that it is financing the group for its own interests and that is why it launched an offensive against the organization in Iraq but not in Syria.”
But the security source did not give specific information about where the funds came from in the U.S. The source only said that Pakistani security agencies had broached the matter with their U.S. counterparts in the past.
“This issue was raised several times in the local media and even in the diplomatic corridors between US and Pakistan and there was media reporters here suggesting that hundreds of recruits have been exported to strain from Pakistan.”
The source also said that Pakistani authorities passed the information to the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The matter was also taken up with CENTCOM chief General Lloyd Austin during his visit to Islamabad earlier this month.”
It is known that ISIS recruiters are active in many countries in the Middle East and Asia where there is widespread sympathy and support for ISIS among the Muslim population.
It is not the first time it has been alleged that ISIS was receiving funds being routed through banks in the West, including the U.S. According to the International Business Times, several western sources have previously said that funds for ISIS operations were being channeled through banks in the West.
A financial crimes expert, Christine Duhaime, said last year that money was being sent to the Islamic State from banks in the west through countries such as Lebanon and Jordan.
Much of the Islamic State’s funding comes from wealthy backers in the Middle East who channel the funds through the international banking system.
Julie Lenarz of the Human Security Center, told the International Business Times that militant and terrorist groups in the Middle East, such as ISIS, were being financed through the international banking system.
“Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other prominent terrorist organizations heavily depend on the generosity of wealthy donors to sustain themselves and finance their operations. A significant portion of their money is being processed via the international banking system and can be restricted by imposing traditional money laundering laws.”
Many experts, including Notre Dame law professor Jimmy Gurule, who recently testified before the House Committee on Financial Services, have noted that international banks are involved in the illegal sale of crude oil by the ISIS.
“If ISIS is generating $1-2m dollars a day from the illicit sale of oil, it is difficult to imagine that banks are not being used to transfer such large sums of money to entities controlled by Isis.”
This has led to calls for stricter international laws to help stem the flow of funds to Jihadi groups, especially ISIS.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]