Officials struggle with tangled web of financing for Somali militants
09/30/13: The New York Times reports illicit ivory, kidnappings, piracy ransoms, smuggled charcoal, extorted payments from aid organizations and even fake charity drives pretending to collect money for the poor — the Shabab militant group has shifted from one illegal business to another, drawing money from East Africa’s underworld to finance attacks like the recent deadly siege at a Nairobi shopping mall. Now officials here and in the West are redoubling efforts to defeat or at least contain the group — with a watchful eye on its hydra-headed sources of money — before its fighters can strike again in Kenya or even the US. For years, American officials have been deeply worried about the Somali militant Islamist group, which claimed responsibility for killing more than 60 men, women and children in the mall. But despite comprehensive multiagency efforts to shut down its sources of money, the group still controls lucrative smuggling routes in southern Somalia, extracts protection money from a variety of Somali businesses and has raised hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars abroad. Somali elders say the Shabab employ a team of accountants — essentially white-collar militants — who have devised elaborate taxation schemes in Somalia, for instance $500 per farm per year or $2 for every sack of rice that passes through their checkpoints.