Daesh militants are felling fruit trees in eastern Afghanistan and smuggling timber into Pakistan to help fund their activities in the region, local officials and residents have told VOA.
A local tribal leader from the Deh Bala district of Nangarhar province, where the Islamist extremist group is looking to build on its growing presence in the county, told the US government-funded news outlet that local residents who were once loyal to the Taliban have been helping Daesh fighters steal local farmers’ crops, destroying their livelihoods in the process.
According to VOA, similar incidents have been reported in neighbouring Achin and Nazian districts, where locals claim to have seen Daesh militants using high-end forestry tools to cut down entire crops of pine nut trees, which local farmers rely on as their main source of income.
Local strongmen in the districts affected who had once previously assisted the Taliban are now said to be helping Daesh decimate crops, before selling a small portion of wood on at local markets, while the extremists smuggle timber into Pakistan where demand for lumber is high.
Confirming reports of the smuggling operation and criticising locals for being complicit in Daesh’s activities, Nangarhar police chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said: “Mines are being planted, schools are being burned, and jungles are being cut, yet locals do not cooperate with the police to provide better security and prevent smuggling of goods.”
Daesh uses profits from a wide range of illegal activities to fund its global terrorist network, which has been put under increasing pressure in recent months after the fall of its so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
While the group is said to receive much of its funding from wealthy donors from countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, its members have reportedly been involved in drug trafficking, people smuggling, the illicit trade in human organs, the sale of stolen oil, the kidnapping and ransom of hostages and the trade in counterfeit goods and fake cigarettes.
Since the collapse of its former stronghold in Iraq and Syria, the group has struggled to regroup in lawless areas of countries including Afghanistan, Yemen and Libya.
Last week, the Times of London reported that bank accounts belonging to a leading chess organisation had been frozen after its president was accused of facilitating the funding of Daesh.
The World Chess Federation (Fide) confirmed that Swiss bank UBS had closed its accounts after the body failed to depose Russian millionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has been on a US wanted list since November 2015 after he was accused of being involved in oil deals linked to Daesh.
Adrian Siegel, the organisation’s treasurer, commented: “It was only a matter of time before we faced this serious problem. In summary Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s problems severely damaged Fide’s business activities and we have to look for a new banking connection.”