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ISIS Seen Profiting From Informal Money System In Spain

The extremist group ISIS is exploiting an informal finance network in Spain to pay its fighters in Syria, according to intelligence officials in Spain. The system has no oversight; it's often used by immigrants to send money to their families back home.

From Madrid, Lauren Frayer reports:

"Spanish officials are investigating a network of 250 local businesses — butchers, small grocery stores, mobile phone shops — allegedly funneling money to jihadi fighters in Syria. They're accused of doing so through Spain's hawala network.

"It's an informal money transfer system that bypasses banks and government oversight. It's believed to manage the savings of about 150,000 Muslims in Spain. The vast majority of transactions are legal. But Spanish officials say the system has been hijacked by ISIS sympathizers who are using it to pay the salaries of Spanish radicals who've gone to fight in Syria.

"They say the majority of the suspect shops are run by Pakistani immigrants, who might not realize for whom the money is intended."

Spanish officials tell El Pais that while they can't estimate how many people have left Spain to conduct jihad in northern Syria, they believe the jihadists "receive about $800 if they are single and $1,200 if they are married."

The newspaper reports:

"Hundreds of young residents in Spain — mostly Moroccans — have joined ISIS. At least 13 have died in suicide missions that caused dozens of deaths among Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military forces."

In another possible approach to combating militants, Spain's interior minister suggested Sunday that the European Union should look at restricting mobility among its member nations.

Referring to the 1995 Schengen borders agreement that allows people to move between 26 European countries without passport controls, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz told El Pais, "The existing mobility in the European Union is facilitating the movements (of jihadists) to any country and also to our country."

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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