Kidnapping is a big cash business for many terrorist groups. Westerners are the most lucrative kidnapping targets.
According to a June 2014 statement by Treasury undersecretary David S. Cohen, ransom payments are now second only to state sponsorship as a source of revenue for terrorist organizations, implying that kidnapping for profit is ahead of even private contributions, bank robbery, and other forms of fundraising.
Kidnapping was a crucial early source of funding as ISIS scaled up its operations in 2013, and the group has had some success in ransoming foreign prisoners. It released two Spanish journalists after receiving an undisclosed sum in March of 2014, and there’s evidence that ISIS was looking for smaller payoffs, too. In a recent article in the Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat translated by Al Monitor, a former ISIS prisoner recounted his jailers demanding $100,000 apiece for the freedom of two ethnic Armenians held in a prison in northeastern Syria.
In April of 2014, a McClatchy report cited anonymous European intelligence agents who claimed the gas-rich Gulf emirate had helped broker the release of ISIS-held foreign hostages on three occasions. The same report said that the agents believe Qatar was the unnamed Persian Gulf country that had helped broker a “sizable payment” that secured the April release of four French journalists whom the group had been holding captive.
And ISIS did indeed want to cash in on Foley.
The group pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States — unlike several European countries that have funneled millions to the terror group to spare the lives of their citizens — refused to pay.
Kidnapping Europeans has become the main source of revenue for Al Qaeda and its affiliates, which have earned at least $125 million in ransom payments in the past five years alone, according to an investigation by The Times.
Reuters has run a rather shrill article on the subject. But it’s obvious why the US should no be in the business of financing Al Qaeda. Any Al Qaeda. These are not simply groups that take the money and walk away. They use the money to launch terrorist operations.
Trying to save lives by financing murder is abhorrent and self-defeating.
The murder of James Foley puts pressure on the US to pay ransoms under the table the way that the Europeans do. This is money that Islamic groups consider to be rightfully theirs. Extracting them from us has powerful symbolic, as well as practical, value to them. It means that we are accepting Dhimmi status.