Al-Qaeda is increasingly funding terror operations thanks to at least $125 million in ransom paid since 2008, largely by European governments to free western hostages, the New York Times reported.
The payments totalled $66 million in 2013 alone, according to an investigation by the newspaper published Tuesday.
While Al-Qaeda’s network was first funded by wealthy donors, “kidnapping for ransom has become today’s most significant source of terrorist financing,” said David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a 2012 speech.
"Each transaction encourages another transaction."
The organization has openly acknowledged the windfall, the paper reported.
"Kidnapping hostages is an easy spoil," wrote Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, "which I may describe as a profitable trade and a precious treasure."