Al-Shabaab warns banks Somalia against exposing customers
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Shabaab has moved swiftly to safeguard their sources of income by warning local banks and other money transfer firms from "exposing" their clients, in an apparent response to Somalia's government decision to put emphasis on the group's source of revenue.
The government of Somalia, which is now embracing ideological tactics and financial control on top of military fronts in tackling Al-Shabaab, put on notice rogue money transfer firms which are associated with the group, noting that their operations would be completely shut down for the sake of security.
Already, the government announced closing over 250 bank accounts associated with Al-Shabaab and 70 mobile money transfer firms as announced by Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre. The government did not, however, provide adequate proof to support their allegations.
Sheikh Ali Dheere, the group's official spokesperson, on Saturday said Al-Shabaab won't "accept" the habit of some banks of giving "information" about their customers to strangers [government]. According to him, such acts are not only "unethical" but also "punishable".
The banks, the group added, "should either safe-keep customers’ money or refund". This is the first time Al-Shabaab militants are firing warning shots at a financial institution in Somalia where most of their revenue is channeled on a daily basis according to multiple UN reports.
Al-Shabaab usually subjects traders to punitive taxation failure to which Business people are compelled to pay double. The group gets most of the money from local businesses that are required to pay a certain amount of money besides also generating income through ransoms which are channeled through some proxies.
A report published by the United Nations shows that the group runs an annual budget of $100 million of which $24 million is used for the purchase of sophisticated weapons used against peacekeepers and other allied troops. The group has, however, released its balance sheet on many occasions.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud believes that targeting the bank accounts would easily reduce the group's activities in central and southern Somalia. Al-Shabaab uses also part of the revenue to pay over 5000 active fighters who have lost significant territories to government troops.
The group uses threats and intimidation against perceived "saboteurs" and it's not clear how banks will manage to stay afloat. The institutions will not choose between the government of the republic of Somalia and the Al-Shabaab, with both parties battling to take control of the banks and mobile banking firms across the country.