16 Oct 2017
Smuggling cigarettes has become such a profitable business for extremist groups, so much that former Algerian military commander of al-Qaeda in Maghreb extremist Mokhtar Belmokhtar was also known as Mr. Marlboro.
More than three quarters of all cigarettes smoked in Libya are illicit, as over 13 billion cigarettes in the Maghreb region in 2016 had illegal origin now that smuggling has become one of the main sources of financing of extremist groups in the Middle East.
“Conflicts in the Middle East are making smuggling a very profitable source of income for terrorist groups because of the porousness of the borders and lack of material and manpower of the security forces in some regions such as the Sahel,” said Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, an El Erian Fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
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