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Linkage between Organised crime and Terrorism

Linkage between Organised crime and Terrorism

Intersections between terrorism and Organised Crime can be divided into three broad categories:

  • co-existence,
  • cooperation and

The organized crime-terrorism nexus may consist of interactions between separate entities — where each is engaged in essentially different activities — as well as occur within one entity involved in different types of criminal behaviour.


  • Coexistence refers to situations where organized criminals and terrorist groups operate in the same theatre but explicitly remain separate entities. And while there is no cooperation between the groups, their combined presence can generate cumulative effects.
  • A RAND study on terrorism in ungoverned territories suggests that factors including infrastructure, operational access, favourable social characteristics and the presence of sources of income contribute to a territory’s attractiveness to terrorist groups.
  • And while business opportunities tend to be the overriding consideration for organized crime groups, an adequate infrastructure, market access and reduced risk of detection are also important.
  • Although fragile states do not attract organized crime and terrorist activities per se, both groups benefit from weak state structures, particularly in areas such as border control and law enforcement. Both also require certain types of infrastructure and services for their operations.
  • Ultimately, both OC and terrorists benefit from populations accustomed to seeking goods and services from non-state suppliers and which have developed a degree of tolerance for illicit business activities. Accordingly, some of the features that make an environment conducive to organized crime also make it attractive to terrorist groups.
  • Where terrorist groups and organized crime are both present, they will share an interest in maintaining the most appealing social, economic and political features of that environment. As a result, their combined presence can heighten the threat to state structures even if they do not explicitly act together.


  • For cooperation between terrorist and criminal groups to occur, the gains for both partners have to overcome inherent obstacles and outweigh the risks. There are a number of reasons why organized crime and terrorist groups do not to cooperate with each other.
  • Most important of these are differences in motives. Terrorist groups pursue political agendas whereas organized criminals tend to seek changes to the political status quo only when it threatens their activities.                                                      Linkage between Organised crime and Terrorism
  • And while the profit to be made from illicit activities is the primary motivation for organized criminals, terrorists regard profit making ventures as a means rather than an end. Consequently, as both groups seek to protect their operations, collaboration with outside actors — with different motives, ideologies or cultural dispositions — is inherently risky.
  • It can also result in increased attention from law-enforcement agencies. However, the benefits of cooperation can outweigh these risks where certain goods or services – or specific types of operational support – can be acquired in a cost-effective manner from the other type of group.
  • A different type of customer-service provider relationship can occur where one group controls territory which is of strategic value for the operational goals of the other. This could include the taxing of illicit revenue streams or the provision of protection or transport for a share of the profits.
  • However, despite opportunities for cooperation, the long-term alliances between OC and terrorist groups are unlikely. Where it does occur, cooperation is more likely to be ad-hoc, short-term and focused upon specific operational requirements.
  • While the pooling of resources and assets between the two types of groups is conceivable, it requires very long-term arrangements to be reliable.


  • A nexus between organized crime and terrorism, however, does not require separate organizations. In fact, its most common form might be the confluence of both types of activity within one entity. Organized criminal networks have long used terror tactics to safeguard business interests and protect their working environments.
  • Indeed, the term “narco-terrorism” was originally coined to refer to precisely this phenomenon. More significant, however, is the recent cultivation of in-house criminal expertise by terrorist groups to help meet operational requirements. For terrorist groups, the incentive to develop such capabilities is obvious as proceeds from illicit streams can provide a sizeable and reliable source of funding.
  • Many a times, lucrative illicit activities may eventually transform politically-motivated groups into bona fide criminal organizations. As terrorists become increasingly involved in commercial enterprises, their interest in making a profit gradually overrides political aspirations. In the end, it becomes difficult to judge a group’s motivation for engaging in organized crime, especially as motivations can vary among the group’s members.
  • Organized crime and terrorism both result from ineffective governance and have developed a symbiotic relationship. Neither are all terrorist acts organized crime, nor are all organized criminal acts terrorism; in most developed countries, organized crime thrives with little or no terrorist activities, and in most developing countries, terrorism exists along with varying levels of organized criminal activity.                                                            Linkage between Organised crime and Terrorism


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