According to a recent report by blockchain analytics firm TRM Labs, terrorist groups globally, including those linked to ISIS, frequently utilize cryptocurrency for fundraising purposes. In certain instances, these terrorist organizations have been able to attract supporters and bolster their operations.
TRM Labs revealed observing “mounting on-chain evidence” over the past 12 months that pro-ISIS networks in countries like Tajikistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have used crypto assets to facilitate their activities. Almost all of the transactions associated with the cases below were conducted using Tether (USDT) stablecoin on the Tron network (TRX).
Pro-ISIS Terror Organizations Leveraging Crypto
1. Recruiting fighters: Several recruited fighters were lured to join ISIS’ affiliate in Afghanistan (ISKP) with the help of crypto. One such fundraising campaign was active for over a year and controlled an address that received around $2 million in USDT on Tron in 2022. TRM Labs claimed to have busted the campaign, which led the Turkish authorities to arrest Shamil Hukumatov, a senior ISIS fundraiser last month who was allegedly behind it.
2. Fundraising campaigns in Indonesia: More than $517k was sent in 2022 by individuals using an Indonesia-based crypto platform to addresses that were flagged to belong to pro-ISIS fundraising campaigns in Syria and the local exchanges that facilitate their activities. In this case, as well, TRM Labs found that all these transfers were made using USDT on Tron.
3. ISPP’s media unit in Pakistan: During the latter half of 2022, a media unit associated with ISPP, the Pakistan affiliate of the notorious terrorist organization, began promoting its ability to accept donations. The entity was established in 2019 and has been responsible for numerous attacks in Pakistan, mainly directed at local security forces. ISPP attempted to capitalize on the earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria to raise funds by posting various cryptocurrency addresses which were previously flagged by TRM Labs as being linked to the terrorist entity.
4. Afghanistan’s affiliate media unit: The media unit of ISIS’ affiliate in Afghanistan has also been using cryptocurrency to fund its operations and/or to receive funds from supporters, according to TRM Labs.
The Syria Link
TRM Labs’ findings of the aforementioned on-chain information ultimately connect to pro-ISIS fundraising campaigns in Syria. The intelligence platform believes the war-torn country remains a key hub of cryptocurrency use by ISIS and its supporters.
The investigation also revealed that a huge chunk of the donations is directed to ISIS families in camps like al-Hol and Roj and the local cryptocurrency exchanges that facilitate their activities.
“Finding these campaigns, tracing the donations on the blockchain, and identifying the donors is critical to map out and potentially disrupt pro-ISIS networks around the world.”