More than £42 million ($70m) paid in ransoms over the last three years has been handed to al-Qa'ida and other terrorists, the United Nations was told last night.
Sir Mark Lyall Grant, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, revealed the estimate as he called for governments to prevent ransoms that finance terrorism from being paid.
He said there is “an increasing threat” of kidnaps intended to benefit terror groups and he put forward a draft resolution that calls on the 193 UN member states “to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments”.
"We want to make it much more difficult for terrorists to benefit from this sort of financing," he said.
A UN diplomat said there's been an upward trend in the overall number of kidnappings by terrorist groups, and an average of over $2 million is being paid per foreign hostage.
Ransom payments have become the single largest source of income for northern Africa's al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qa'ida in the Arabian peninsula, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The draft resolution follows a communique issued in June by G-8 leaders at their summit in Northern Ireland in which they expressed concern at "the increasingly fragmented and geographically diverse threat posed by terrorist groups including al-Qa'ida and its affiliates," and, "the threat posed by kidnapping for ransom by terrorists."
"Payments to terrorists from Sahel to the Horn of Africa helped fuel instability in the region, and contributed to large scale attacks," the communique said. Ransom money also supports recruitment efforts and improvements in the operational capability of terrorist groups.
The draft resolution is aimed at halting ransom money being used to finance terrorism. It is not aimed at criminal kidnapping for ransom or piracy for financial purposes.