NEW YORK — The UN Security Council on Monday demanded that countries not pay terrorist ransoms which the British backers of the move said have reaped al-Qaeda and its allies more than $100 million.
A resolution passed unanimously by the 15 member council calls on UN members “to prevent terrorists from benefiting directly or indirectly from ransom payments or from political concessions and to secure the safe release of hostages.”
The resolution does not impose any punishments and is based on a statement agreed by the Group of Eight powers at a summit last year but has been several months in preparation at the UN. Several governments are suspected of having paid ransoms to militant groups in recent years.
Kidnap for ransom “has become the most significant terrorist financing challenge and remains a terrible threat to the nationals of all countries,” said Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.
“While numbers vary, we estimate that in the last three and a half years, al-Qaeda-affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups have collected at least $105 million,” he told reporters after the vote.
Lyall Grant said attacks such as the Amenas gas complex siege in Algeria one year ago highlighted “the lengths that terrorists will go to take hostages.”
“It is therefore imperative that we take steps to ensure kidnap for ransom is no longer perceived as a lucrative business model.”
The resolution also calls on governments to press businesses not to pay ransoms to terrorists. Britain has made it illegal to pay terrorist ransoms.
Lyall Grant acknowledged that the resolution did not carry any sanctions against countries found to have paid to release hostages, but he said: “It is the start of a process and obviously therefore there may be further steps, but let’s see how this resolution works.”