Narcoterrorism is a term coined by former President Fernando Belaúnde Terry of Peru in 1983 when describing terrorist-type attacks against his nation's anti-narcotics police. In its original context, narcoterrorism is understood to mean the attempts of narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of a government or a society through violence and intimidation, and to hinder the enforcement of anti-drug laws by the systematic threat or use of such violence. Pablo Escobar's violence in his dealings with the Colombian government is probably one of the best known and best documented examples of narcoterrorism.
The term is being increasingly used for known terrorist organizations that engage in drug trafficking activity to fund their operations and gain recruits and expertise. Such organizations include FARC, ELN, AUC in Colombia, PCP-SL in Peru, Hamas and the Taliban.
A 2013 Congressional Research Service report noted that in 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that 14 of 36 (39%) of the groups designated by the U.S. as foreign terrorist organizations "were involved 'to some degree' in illicit narcotics activity" while in fiscal year 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) "reported that 29 of the top 63 international drug syndicates, identified as such on the consolidated priority organization target (CPOT) list, were associated with terrorists."
In 2000 the U.S. began funding, continued under the U.S. Bush administration, of Plan Colombia, intending to eradicate drug crops and to act against drug lords accused of engaging in narcoterrorism, including among them the leaders of the marxist FARC and the AUC paramilitary forces. The U.S. government is funding large-scale drug eradication campaigns and supporting Colombian military operations, seeking the extradition of commanders.
Although Al Qaeda is often said to finance its activities through drug trafficking, the 9/11 Commission Report notes that "while the drug trade was a source of income for the Taliban, it did not serve the same purpose for al Qaeda, and there is no reliable evidence that bin Laden was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking." The organization gains most of its finances through donations, particularly those by "wealthy Saudi individuals".
Areas or countries that have active or historical narcoterrorism or narco-war include:
- Afghanistan, to fund operations with sales of opium and heroin in the Afghanistan War
- Brazil, where the PCC and other gangs have attacked police and civilian targets in order to strengthen their position.
- Colombia and Peru, which have influential right-wing paramilitary "narco-terrorists" and left-wing revolutionary guerrillas.
- India's D-Company, a Mumbai-based crime syndicate which carried out the 1993 Bombay bombings. Said to be involved in large-scale drug trafficking via their contacts in Pakistani intelligence.
- Kosovo, during the civil war in 1999. Kosovo liberation Army (KLA) was using "Narcoterrorism" for financing its operations.
- Northern Ireland, where loyalist paramilitaries like the Ulster Volunteer Force are known to be involved in drug dealing.
- The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is said to fund itself through heroin trafficking.
- The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey, who smuggle heroin from Turkey into Europe.
- Hezbollah is said to derive its income from drug trafficking operations in both the Middle East and Latin America.
Narcoterrorism in Colombia
During the 1934–1993 period Colombia was known as one of the countries that suffered a number of terrorist attacks in the hands of narcotic traffickers. Belisario Betancourt, Virgilio Barco and Cesar Gaviria were three Colombian presidents that constantly battled against drug cartels, especially the one known as “Los Extraditables” led by Pablo Escobar Gaviria and Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha. A number of crimes by “Los Extraditables”, also known as the Medellin Cartel were due to their constant battles against the government law.
Pablo Escobar was elected as a representative as an alternative congress delegate, but allegations from politicians, the newspaper “El Espectador” and the minister of justice declared him a drug trafficker and he was eventually dismissed from Congress on January 4, 1984.
On April 30, 1984, a motorcycle gunman from the Medellin Cartel killed the minister of Justice Rodrigo Lara Bonilla. On November 6th 1985 the 19th of April Movement (Marxist guerrillas) sieged the palace of Justice in order to hold all supreme magistrates hostage. The organized military reaction caused the building to burn resulting in 91 people dead, of which eleven were judges. Although the M-19 denies being funded from outside sources, multiple sources say the Medellin Cartel funded them. Additionally, numerous bombs detonated across the country, the most memorable bomb being the one that detonated in a Colombian airplane during its flight over Soacha Cundinamarca resulting in 107 dead in 1989.
- DEA Digging Into Al Qaeda Drug Links, By Robert Hendin, July 18, 2008. CBS News.
- A GLOBAL OVERVIEW OF NARCOTICS-FUNDED TERRORIST AND OTHER EXTREMIST GROUPS, May 2002, Library of Congress – Federal Research Division
- Testimony of Victor Comras to the US House Subcommittee on Financial Oversight and Investigations, hearings on Current and Evolving Trends in Terrorism Financing. September 28, 2010.
- John Rollins & Liana Sun Wyler, Terrorism and Transnational Crime: Foreign Policy Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service (June 11, 2013).
- "The Drug War and Terrorism". Narcoterror.org. 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2013-07-07.
- Narco-terrorism: international drug trafficking and terrorism, a dangerous mix : hearing before the Committee on the Judiciary, One Hundred Eighth Congress, first session. United States Senate U.S. G.P.O. May 20, 2003. p. 111. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
- The Drug War in Mexico: By Any Other Name it's Terrorism, by Barnard R. Thompson (MexiData.info)
- Mali and the Narco-Terrorist, by Sergei Boeke (International Centre for Counter-Terrorism - The Hague)
- The Narco-terror Trap, by Ginger Thompson (ProPublica)