Identifying foreign terrorist fighters: The Role of Public-Private Partnership, Information Sharing and Financial Intelligence

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Banks and other financial institutions can play an important role in identifying foreign fighters

Since 9/11, financial institutions have found themselves placed squarely on the front line of efforts to combat terrorism as the global community seeks to undermine the financing of terrorism, targeting the perceived Achilles’ heel of groups such as Al-Qa’ida, Al-Shabaab and Daesh. Banks have played valuable ‘post-event’ investigative roles such as following the London transport bombings in 2005, but could they play a role in disrupting future terrorist threats already in the planning?

Among today’s most pressing global security threats is the risk created by individuals travelling to fight with groups in Syria and Iraq, where they may be radicalised. Of these many thousands, it is feared that some will return home, potentially with the intent of inflicting violence on those they view as enemies of Islam. Indeed, Daesh urges its supporters – via its Dabiq magazine – to target ‘citizens of crusader nations … wherever they can be found’. These so-called ‘foreign fighters’ have flocked to Syria and Iraq in their thousands. Whilst the vast majority comes from Arab countries, a significant minority of as many as 4,000 comes from Western states, including most countries of the EU.

Whilst there has been much discussion and debate about who these travelling fighters are, their motivations, and the threats they pose, the majority of this analysis has focused on the role of social media in this phenomenon. This Occasional Paper considers the role that banks, armed with troves of financial data, might play in revealing the financial footprints of those travelling to join jihadi groups in Syria and Iraq or having returned home.

Published in association with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague

Tom Keatinge

Director, CFCS

Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies

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