Cash-strapped terrorists turn to phone card business

Updated On: Nov 25, 2005

Jakarta - Terrorists operating in Indonesia are facing a cash-flow problem so severe that they have been forced to sell mobile phone vouchers to raise money to finance their activities. Their financial woes started after funding from Saudi Arabia was cut off last year.  

      The money stopped flowing into Indonesia after Saudi security authorities arrested a man, known only as "AS", who had been receiving the funds from couriers. 
      "They (terrorists) now face difficulties in obtaining money to finance their operations with the arrest of this man. We've cut their access to money,"Indonesia's National Police chief General Sutanto told the House of Representatives Commission III on Legal Affairs on Nov 21. 
      Police believe that the terrorists are now obtaining money through legal means by selling mobile phone vouchers, a business that has mushroomed in the country. "They (terrorists) can reap profits amounting to five million rupiah (US$500) a day," Gen  Sutanto said. 
      His comments are in line with the view of some security experts who have said that terrorists have begun smaller operations because of cash-flow problems. The last attacks, in restaurants in Bali on Oct 1, were carried out by three suicide bombers wearing explosive-laden backpacks. Previously, militants had preferred to use larger car bombs. 
      "These are difficult times for them now, but we're intensifying our efforts to investigate them, including finding our most wanted man, Noordin Mohd Top," Gen Sutanto said.  
      Noordin is believed to have escaped a police raid earlier this month. However, his Malaysian compatriot and bomb-expert Azahari Husin was killed during a gunbattle with police on Nov 9 in East Java. Both men are believed to be senior members of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network. 

* Terrorists 'selling phone cards' (The Jakarta Post, Nov 22)