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article imageTerrorist networks, narcotics groups increasingly aligned

By Michael Krebs     Sep 30, 2009 in Crime
A disturbing trend is emerging in information sharing among major terrorist organizations and narcotics groups. "They are one part terrorist organization and are becoming one part global drug trafficking cartel," says one expert.
Two shadowy and well-funded worlds are increasingly coming together, and the impact of this union is elevating concern among security experts around the world. The recent deployment of an Al Qaeda suicide bomber against a Saudi Arabian target uncovered the implementation of a long-established drug smuggling technique - with the explosive device having been crammed into the bomber's anal cavity, escaping detection of the highest security protocols.
The links between the underground narcotics trade and terrorist networks have usually centered around financial agreements. Afghanistan has long been a breeding ground for terror cells and drug runners alike, as poppy cultivation and heroin production have conspired to fully fund the deadly activities of both groups.
But terrorist financing through drug sales is certainly not limited to poppy fields in Afghanistan. In fact, the 2004 Madrid train bombings were financed almost entirely by hashish and ecstasy sales to drug consumers in Spain. The U.S. government has linked 19 known terrorist groups to the narcotics business.
The suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia adds another dimension in this relationship between terrorists and drug traffickers - as smuggling techniques are likely being explored together. While the Al Qaeda incident showcased the usage of body cavities, other groups - such as Hezbollah - have been exploring human trafficking.
Michael Braun, the Chief of Operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, has labeled certain groups - FARC, Taliban, Hamas, and Hezbollah - as hybrids, telling CBS News: "They are one part terrorist organization and are becoming one part global drug trafficking cartel."
"This is the face of 21st century organized crime," Braun said. "But they are meaner and uglier than anything we've seen before."
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