A procurement network operated by the Islamic State used a number of front companies to procure the drones and other material. At one point, the Islamic State was spending ‘thousands of dollars a month’ on drone equipment. Around 50 commercial entities from 20 countries were involved in the supply chain of components used to construct improvised explosive devices; of note, the majority of components were procured lawfully through third party supplies in Iraq or Turkey.
The drone procurement network centered on Siful Haque Sujan, a Bangladeshi Islamic State operative. Prior to joining the Islamic State, Sujan and his brother (Atual Haque Sobuj) incorporated and ran a number of IT companies in the UK. They were later used as front companies to move money and material to the Islamic State. Sujan also made gold purchases for the Islamic State using a cover company called Advance Technology Global Ltd. The companies were also used to send money to a man (Mohamed Elshinawy) living in the United States to conduct a terrorist attack.
One reporter described Siful Sujan as “one of the key architects of the global money moving operations of ISIS” and suggested that several operations in Bangladesh had been funded by Sujan’s financial support. One of the companies (WAHMI technologies) was the recipient of about $100,000 (sent in instalments over the course of one year). Just over half of those funds were used to train and recruit members to a terrorist organization in Bangladesh.Some of the funds may have been used to finance the 2016 attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka.
The brothers used a variety of means to procure the material, including ‘western sounding’ aliases to make the purchases. Payment was generally made using PayPal. A computer expert working for the companies was also instrumental in the operation, personally financing payments to Elshinawy, as well as organizing and acquiring equipment destined for the Islamic State.
In September 2018, Danish officials arrested two people on suspicion of buying drones for the Islamic State.
Analysis: The case of the Sujan and Sobuj bothers demonstrates the extent to which individuals with pre-existing companies, networks, and business skills can enhance a terrorist group’s financing capabilities. These companies allowed the Islamic State to procure material undetected for some time, and allowed the group to move funds internationally without significant scrutiny.