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Businesses in Spain funding Islamic State, al-Nusra Front

By Andrew V. Pestano
Businesses in Spain funding Islamic State, al-Nusra Front
Flags flown by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) - a Sunni jihadist group. Self-proclaimed as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over Muslims worldwide. File photo by UPI/Shutterstock/Steve Allen

MADRID, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- About 250 businesses in Spain have transferred money through a network system to the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate.

Grocery stores, phone call centers and butcher shops used a network system called hawala, an alternative to Western banking practices originally developed in India. About 150,000 people manage their savings through hawala without any legal oversight, according to El País.

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Hundreds of young Spanish residents, mostly Moroccan, have joined the Islamic State, but an exact number is not known. Terrorist organizations often use hawala for finance, according to officials.

Trust, family relationships and regional affiliations are used in the sort of "underground banking" system where hawaladars, or hawala dealers, transfer money "without money movement," making it difficult to trace. Any documents that evidence the accounting are often destroyed.

There are about 300 hawaladars in Spain, mostly Pakistani, who are often used to pay the salaries of Spanish jihadists in Syria. The militants earn about $800 if single and $1,200 if married, according to police.

The U.S. embassy in Spain told Washington in 2004 that Spain was an important financing center for jihadists in Afghanitsan and Iraq.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, reportedly used hawala agents in Spain.

In one instance, two Pakistanis living in Spain sent money through a hawala call center that went to terrorists responsible for the death of Daniel Pearl, a Wall Street Journal reporter, in 2002. The call center reportedly transferred about 18 million euros in 15 months, according officials.

In another instance, an Indian farmer in Spain sent almost 10,000 euros to a Pakistani ceramist. The money was later used to purchase a truck involved in a suicide bombing in Tunisia that killed 22 tourists in 2002.

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