‘Disrupting terror finance vital to counter-terrorism’

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Disrupting communication and finance of terror outfits are vital to tackling terrorism as such acts succeed due to movement of “men, money, material and messages”, US-based terror expert Amit Kumar has said.

“Communication by way of messages, flow of money or anything that has (monetary) value is required to spread terrorism. Terrorists succeed by moving men, money, materiel and messages. The effective counter-terrorism strategy could be to disrupt their communication and finance,” Kumar told IANS while on a visit here.

Kumar, who is president of Washington-based AAA International Security Consultants LLC, said some measures have been taken for disrupting terrorist messages by working with social media sites like YouYube.

“Arms embargoes, travel ban, freezing of assets and immigration checks are some other measures being taken worldwide,” said Kumar.

“The next strategy to counter terrorism should be to unravel the nexus between terrorist finance and crime. Both organised and petty crime are known to intersect with terrorist financing activities,” he added.

Kumar, who has studied public administration and philosophy, apart from international business, also mentioned the role of bitcoin — virtual currency — as a new phenomenon being used for transaction of money by terrorists and other criminals.

Bitcoin is a digital asset and a payment system which helps users to transact money directly without an intermediary.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, owners of bitcoins can use various websites to trade them for physical currencies, such as dollars or euros, or can exchange them for goods and services from a number of vendors.

Bitcoin relies on public-key cryptography, in which users have a public key that is available for everyone to see and a private key known only to their computers.

Kumar gave the example of a 17-year-old tech-savvy youth, Ali Shukri Amin, a resident of Virginia, who was held by US agencies last year on charges of providing instructions to Islamic State supporters on using bitcoins to conceal financial donations.

Kumar said that effective monitoring of bitcoins can be done, particularly by the banking system.

“For example, if a bitcoin user buys a bitcoin, he does intersect the banking system by the way of PayPal (an American company operating a worldwide online payments system) or some kind of online intersectional inter-phase of a bank.

“By monitoring, you can try to avert the potential use of bitcoin by a criminal or a terrorist. Otherwise the bitcoin transaction and usage becomes anonymous,” he explained.

Kumar, who has worked previously with Al-Qaida/Taliban sanctions regime at the United Nations, also talked about measures like de-radicalisation of terrorists or would-be terrorists to counter terrorism.

Kumar said AAA International Security Consultants LLC provides consulting, training and curriculum development, and research services in a range of areas, including counter terrorism, counter terrorist-financing and anti-money laundering.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at rajnish.s@ians.in)

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