SHAFAQNA – A huge rise in terrorist funding for Islamic State from Spain is being channelled through a secret network of mobile phone shops.Using the hawala network, the informal transaction system that is common in the Middle East, millions of pounds are sent via mobile phone and Islamic food shops to finance terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
An intelligence source said: “Since the Afghanistan era [post 9/11], we have not seen anything like this. The network has grown. We think there are 250 hawala establishments in Spain.”
Spain’s Muslim population soared to two million during the years of the property boom, which ended in 2008, when tens of thousands of Moroccans and Pakistanis immigrated for work.
About 150,000 Muslims regularly send savings from Spain using the hawala network for legitimate reasons to families in the Middle East and Asia.
However, the lack of any way of tracing the payments, unlike conventional bank accounts, has made this network attractive to jihadist support cells that finance Islamic State (Isis) and the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda. The cash is sent through secret “offices” in Spanish cities to Kabul or Delhi, then on to the terrorist groups.
About 100 Moroccans living in Spain are known to have volunteered for Islamic State. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind 9/11, used a hawala network to make payments in Logrono and Barcelona in the months leading up to the attacks.
Ali Gujar and Mohammad Afzaal,who were sentenced to five years for collaborating with a terrorist group in 2007, sent €4,030 from a shop in Barcelona to finance an al-Qaeda cell that killed Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist, in 2002 in Pakistan.
A judicial investigation found that €18 million was transferred to jihadist terror groups from the same shop in Barcelona over a 15-month period.