UN adopts resolution to crack down on terrorist financing
UNITED NATIONS (AP) The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday aimed at tightening its crackdown on financing terrorist groups through illicit oil sales, trading in antiquities and paying ransom for hostages.
In a sign of unity on fighting the Islamic State and other al-Qaida-linked groups, the Russian-sponsored resolution was co-sponsored by many council members including the United States. That reflects the council's determination to cut off funds for the terrorists as a way of weakening their ability to operate and attract fighters.
It comes at a time when the Islamic State group controls about a third of Syria and Iraq, and recent turmoil in Yemen gives al-Qaida a fresh opportunity to plot attacks against the West.
A U.N. panel of experts in November estimated the Islamic State group's potential revenue from crude oil at between $846,000 and $1.65 million daily, noting the global drop in oil prices. It said the group received $35 million to $45 million or $96,000 to $123,000 daily in ransom payments over the previous year, and that kidnapping for ransom continues to grow.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the resolution is part of "a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State group. She said the strategy also includes coordinated military operations by many nations, pointing to attacks that have knocked out oil fields, refineries and other infrastructure and the recapture of the Syrian town of Kobani.
"As a result of these and other efforts ISIL is having a harder time generating new funds needed to carry out its operations," Power said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. "Today's resolution aims to make that effort even more challenging, by using sanctions and other punitive tools to target three ISIL income streams."
The resolution calls for sanctions on individuals and companies trading oil produced by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. It reaffirms that it is illegal to pay ransom to individuals and groups such as the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra that are already subject to U.N. sanctions, and that all countries are required to freeze such funds.
And it requires all 193 U.N. member states to take "appropriate steps" to prevent the increasing trade in antiquities and other items of historical, cultural, rare scientific and religious importance illegally removed from Syria. A similar ban already exists for antiquities from Iraq.
Both Iraq and Syria welcomed adoption of the resolution.
"This is the most comprehensive resolution addressing the issue of terrorism," Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari told reporters.
It is the latest in a series of Security Council resolutions targeting terror that go back to the days immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
The earliest resolution bans all countries from supporting or financing terrorism. Subsequent measures have ordered sanctions against terrorists and terrorist groups, demanded an end to ransom payments to such groups, and required nations to bar their citizens from traveling abroad to join terrorist organizations.
It reiterates concern that oilfields, refineries and other infrastructure such as dams and power plants controlled by the Islamic State, al-Nusra and other al-Qaida-linked groups "are generating a significant portion of the groups' income, alongside extortion, private foreign donations, kidnap ransoms and stolen money from the territory they control."
Many governments do pay ransom, but the U.S., Britain, Japan and others have refused, leading to the deaths of their hostages.
The resolution expresses the Security Council's "determination to prevent kidnapping and hostage-taking committed by terrorist groups and to secure the safe release of hostages without ransom payments or political concessions." This is similar to the language in a January 2014 resolution adopted by the council.
The resolution is drafted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which deals with threats to peace because it imposes legally binding obligations on U.N. member states. It does not authorize military action to enforce the resolution's provisions.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a speech on Oct. 23 that the Islamic State group was selling oil at substantially discounted prices to a variety of middlemen, including some from Turkey, who then transported it to be resold. He said it also appears that some oil was sold to Kurds in Iraq and then resold in Turkey, and that some was bought by the Syrian government.
Associated Press writer Cara Anna contributed to this report