cash 'funds Islamist terrorism'
Observer, May 13, 2007
Cannabis smokers are unwittingly funding
Islamist extremists linked to terror attacks in Spain, Morocco and
Algeria, according to a joint investigation by the Spanish and French
secret services. The finding will be seized on both by campaigners for a
harsher clampdown on cannabis and by those who argue that legalisation
is the only way to end a petty dealing trend that is dragging growing
numbers of teenagers into crime.
The investigation by the Centro Nacional
de Inteligencia and the Renseignements Generaux was launched after
Spanish police found that the Islamists behind the March 2004 bombings
in Madrid bought their explosives from former miners in return for
blocks of hashish. The bombings claimed 191 lives.
Spain's role as a transit point for drugs
was highlighted last week when Madrid hosted the US Drug Enforcement
Agency's annual conference. Experts heard not only that North African
hashish was funding terrorism in Europe, but also that West Africa had
become a new hub for South American cocaine shipments bound for Europe.
Morocco is the world's leading cannabis
exporter, with an annual crop estimated to be worth at least £2bn. Last
month, the Moroccan navy seized three tonnes of Europe-bound hashish off
the Mediterranean port of Nador. The same week, Spanish coastguards
seized 4.3 tonnes of Moroccan resin off Ibiza.
The joint secret service investigation
finds that hashish is part of a 'complex financing network' serving the
Algeria-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, affiliated since
last year to al-Qaeda. The group claimed responsibility for two bombings
in Algiers on 11 April that killed 30 people and left 200 injured.
French terrorism expert Dominique Thomas
said the link between drug dealing and Islamic terrorism was not new:
'The issue stands at the core of divisions within al-Qaeda between those
who believe that the end justifies the means and others who argue that
drugs are incompatible with Islam.'