Regional group to choke militants’ funds in Asia

SINGAPORE, Feb 12, 2008 (AFP) – A consortium launched in Singapore on Tuesday aims to choke militants’ access to funds in Southeast Asia which one analyst said could reach three million US dollars a month. The Consortium for Countering the Financing of Terrorism aims to strengthen cooperation between banks, government agencies and academia to cut off funding for extremist groups.

“We want to make it difficult for them (to transfer money),” terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna said.

The Association of Banks in Singapore, the government and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies launched the consortium initially in Singapore, with plans for later involvement of other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Gunaratna said militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), move between two and three million US dollars a month to fund their activities in Southeast Asia.

These groups use the banking system, informal money transfers and couriers carrying bags filled with cash to transfer the funds, said Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research.

“At least two to three million US dollars is moving in So