(IC WALES) Radical Islamic cells in Europe are using an ingenious way to finance terror networks that’s virtually impossible to trace: withdrawing hundreds of thousands of pounds a month from cash machines with fake credit cards, according to Jean-Louis Bruguiere, France’s top anti-terrorism judge.
The technique appears to be similar to a sophisticated electronic scam involving cash-machines in Britain in March. There, police found cloning devices attached to cash machines.
The device, attached to the card slot of the cash machine, works by recording the details on the magnetic stripe of the card as it passes through.
Bruguiere, who’s been at the forefront of the war on terror for 20 years, also said that the Caucasus has replaced Afghanistan as a key militant training ground for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and other groups around the world.
Bruguiere said militant financing networks were small and scattered all over the world and “represent millions of euros” in fund-raising for terrorists.
In March, France launched a judicial investigation after a cash machine technician was accused of faking a robbery to help fund a Moroccan militant network.
French authorities suspected the cash went to fund activities by the Moroccan Islamic Fighting Group, blamed for last year’s bombings in Casablanca that killed 45 people.
US officials believe insurgent groups in Iraq have access to unlimited money, part of which comes from sympathisers in Saudi Arabia via Syria. Contributions are also thought to be funnelled through charities, tribal relations, and businesses.
What about claims that al-Qaida’s wealthy leader bin Laden is providing a great deal of the funds? “It’s a very attractive but over-simplistic image,” said Bruguiere.
In recent years, the powerful magistrate has rounded up hundreds of suspected militants in France and earned a global reputation as having a key role in the fight against al-Qaida.
He said the focus now ought to be on the Caucasus, Chechnya, Iraq and Southeast Asia.
“The Caucasus is a training zone that has partially replaced Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the situation was true even before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
With the Afghan territory out of Islamists’ control following the US-led ousting of the Taliban in late 2001, Bruguiere said, Chechnya – which he called “a jihad land” – as well as the Caucasus, Ossetia and Ingushetia “have taken on an enormous importance.”
“Today, the Caucasian problem … is not unique to Russia. It is a true international problem because the majority of the Chechen cause has been hijacked by al-Qaida. It is not a political matter, it is a reality that must be controlled,” he said.