Security officials estimate that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has extorted up to $20 Million between 2010 to 2012 from kidnapping and ransom activities. Intelligence agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom believe that kidnapping for ransom is the largest source of revenue for the AQAP.
The ransom money paid to the group is used to finance its operations in Yemen, where it is primarily active along with Saudi Arabia. Intelligence officials state that the ransom money allows the group to pay fighters and families of those who died. The group also participates in providing social services and infrastructure projects in Yemen.
AQAP turned to kidnapping for ransom after Western governments shut down its revenue stream by cracking down on money-transferring services from wealthy supporters.
AQAP is not the only Al Qaeda affiliate who is actively involved in kidnapping. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which operates in Mali and Northern Africa, also funds its activities through ransom payments. The average ransom payout to the AQIM was $5.4 Million in 2011.
Source: Ken Dilanian, “Al Qaeda group is operating on ransom money from the West,” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 2013.