The latest information to emerge from materials retrieved during the Osama bin Laden compound raid reveals that al Qaeda has turned to kidnapping for ransom as its newest method to compensate for the group's dwindling funds. Although officials would not give specific details on recent crimes, it has been determined that tourists, merchants and diplomats have been targeted.
Authorities have revealed that bin Laden kept tabs on how the al Qaeda network moved its money around, and because of a decrease in financial support from previous sources, he pursued kidnapping as a profitable measure. Furthermore, officials have been trying to learn more from the recovered files about al Qaeda's economic base and how it will be impacted by bin Laden’s death. They have reportedly found a list of contacts that they are currently analyzing. Investigators are hoping to trace bank accounts or donors and stop the financial flow to al Qaeda. Officials also hope to find proper evidence that leads them to prosperous individuals from the Persian Gulf who have collaborated with bin Laden since the 1980’s.
The al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan has not always utilized kidnapping as a prime means to raise funds. In the past, they heavily relied on outward sources to funnel money towards their efforts. At the time of the September 11th attacks, al Qaeda absorbed at least $30 million annually, but its income has slowly deteriorated since then. Various CIA drone attacks, as well as economic penalties posed by the U.S. and its allies, have immensely delayed that flow. Simultaneously, al Qaeda operatives have learned that abductions yield millions of dollars in ransom and as a result, attitudes about kidnapping have changed within the group.
At this time, officials have not elaborated on bin Laden’s interest in kidnapping because they are primarily focusing on other issues such as potential plots that were elaborately planned in the classified files. Nevertheless, it is a serious issue that continues to be reviewed and discussed by officials.