UNITED NATIONS – Britain is urging the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution calling on all countries not to pay ransom to kidnappers who use the money to finance terrorist groups.
Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Wednesday his government estimates that over the last three years more than $70 million has been provided to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups from ransom paid to kidnappers.
Lyall Grant said he circulated a draft resolution to council members Tuesday calling on the 193 U.N. member states "to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments."
A U.N. resolution adopted weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States already bans all countries from financing terrorism.
But Lyall Grant said the proposed new resolution highlights "the increasing threat" from kidnapping for ransom to benefit terrorists.
"We want to make it much more difficult for terrorists to benefit from this sort of financing," he said.
Lyall Grant said he hopes the Security Council will approve the resolution this month, with support from all 15 members.
The British resolution follows up on the communique issued by leaders of eight major industrial powers at their summit in Northern Ireland in June.
The G-8 communique expressed concern at "the increasingly fragmented and geographically diverse threat posed by terrorist groups including al-Qaida and its affiliates," and "the threat posed by kidnapping for ransom by terrorists."
While the international community has made "significant progress in combating the flow of funds to terrorist organizations," the G-8 estimated that al-Qaida-affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups worldwide have collected tens of millions of dollars in ransoms since 2010.
"Payments to terrorists from Sahel to the Horn of Africa helped fuel instability in the region, and contributed to large scale attacks," the communique said, adding that ransom money also supports recruitment efforts and improvements in the operational capability of terrorist groups.
The leaders of the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan said they "unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists" and welcome efforts to prevent kidnapping and secure the safe release of hostages without paying ransom.
The G-8 urged the Security Council to consider a new resolution "to increase international awareness of the threat of kidnapping for ransom, and ... to address and mitigate the threat."
A U.N. diplomat said there's been an upward trend in the overall number of kidnappings by terrorist groups, and an average of over $2 million is being paid per foreign hostage.
Ransom payments have become the single largest source of income for northern Africa's al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The draft resolution only addresses ransom to finance terrorism — not criminal kidnapping for ransom or piracy for financial purposes.