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US State Department links poaching to terrorism

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The US government has linked increased terrorist activities with rise in poaching and urged for joint efforts to combat these global crimes.

In a teleconference with reporters on Thursday, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Brooke Darby, told reporters there is an increasing association between falling numbers of wildlife and rising cases militant attacks.

“We have some links between militant organisations and poaching. And one of the reasons for that is that the value of wildlife products right now is so high that it can be used to generate money that can be used to finance all kinds of activities,” she said from Washington.

“The money can be used to purchase arms; it can be used to do all manner of criminal activities and that is why it is an ongoing concern of us to stem this problem and understanding that it can feed militant groups, terrorist groups and other criminal activity.”

Ms Darby who was announcing a new reward scheme, the Transnational Organised Crime Rewards Program, for combating poaching told journalists that the two vices are also aided by corrupt officials who allow poachers to smuggle out illegal wildlife items and sneak in arms and terrorists.

“All those people who make this illicit trade possible are also likely to engage in facilitating other forms of illicit trade such as trafficking arms, people and drugs. Going after elements that facilitate these crimes is also important,” she said.


Kenya has been on the receiving end of terror attacks linked to Somali militant group al-Shabaab, and following the September 21 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, the Kenyan government sacked 14 immigration officials for it charged had been involved in sneaking in terrorists.

Although the High Court later overturned the dismissals, the government insists the 14 would remain on forced leave.

On Thursday, the US announced a prize of $1 million (Sh85 million) to be awarded to anyone who can provide information that can help “dismantle” the Xaysavang network based in Laos but with links in Africa and other Far East countries.

The State Department said that the network is “one of the most prolific wildlife syndicates in operations connecting supply regions in Africa and demand centres in Asia.”

Ms Darby added that the syndicate has been in operation for more than a decade now “smuggling products like rhino horn and ivory through Laos to countries including Vietnam and China.”

Its associates, she said, are active in Mozambique, South Africa, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam although they transport these items by bribing their way through major link airports like the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya.

Kenya is also among several nations in Africa that have been ravaged by poaching both as a conduit for illegal wildlife products and as a source. In July, the US announced that Kenya and South Africa would receive $3 million (Sh250 million) each to help train wildlife guards and prosecutors. But poaching has continued, with at least three arrests every month since January 2012.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya has lost more than 190 elephants to poachers since January 2012 and 29 rhinos have also been killed for their horn. Although many poachers and traffickers of wildlife trophies have been arrested and charged, the penalties meted to them have been lenient.

The new Wildlife Management and Conservation Bill 2013, which is due to be presented in Parliament, has proposed to enhance penalties for traffickers to up to 15 years in prison or a fine of Sh10 million.


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