(RIEAS Senior Analyst)
Ever since the recent arrests of the six suspected terrorists, what continues to strike me as particularly odd is a specific aspect of what the Police discovered: How can a 31-year-old, a 30-year-old, three 26-year-olds and a 21-year-old have in their possession (or have access to) two scorpion submachine guns, one unidentified submachine gun, three AK-47 assault rifles, one unidentified assault rifle, 200 grams of TNT, fifty kilograms of ANFO -a mixture widely used in improvised explosives devices-, rounds of ammunition, three hand grenades and a sizable collection of other, relatively trivial, yet rather costly, items?It is probably safe to assume that the news about a stockpile of weapons of this size, would lead, even the most creative minds, to picture military depots or reserves of paramilitaries during civil wars. Perhaps even clandestine caches drawn from the theories about stay-behind-armies. All such cases though involve fighters or aspiring fighters who are only one part of a far greater apparatus, one capable of providing the necessary infrastructure, logistical and financial support to its loyal foot-soldiers. Without a doubt, one would be rather unlikely to readily suspect a bunch of youths in their twenties and early thirties, as the owners or administrators of such a sizable arsenal.
The money trail behind the recent attacks is certainly one of great interest and also one of great complexity. The type of the confiscated items, their significant cost, the possible sources of both the items and the financial resources can allow for some very useful hypotheses.
First of all, items such as the one described in the Police statement after the arrests, can only have specific ‘procurement’ channels. Most of the weapons have probably been acquired -directly or through another ‘provider’-, either on the black market or they may have been the spoils of some sort of criminal activity, such as raids on military storehouses, etc.
The scenario of the black market leads to the next natural question: who is the financier behind whoever acquired the weapons? The age, the professional and financial background of the arrested does not leave any room for accepting any theory of self-sustained resources by the arrested alone. Acquiring such weaponry on the black market, renting so many apartments and paying for many months in advance, is not a cheap undertaking and it must have required substantial financial resources, most likely unavailable to the arrested suspects alone.
If, on the other hand, the source of the arsenal is criminal, the repercussions are equally crucial with those deriving from the possible existence of a generous financier. Theories about links between terrorists and criminals have been known for a long time. Nevertheless, clear evidence to this direction would alter significantly our understanding of the security environment and would open numerous new doors in terms of the potential fruits of such cooperation. If terrorist cells and organisations don’t turn to criminal activities strictly to finance their operations anymore, but are routinely involved in such acts, then any analyses on the terrorists, their motivations, their modus operandi and their capabilities need to be revisited. Also, any reluctance on behalf of the perpetrators of terrorist acts to adopt methods which might until recently appear as incompatible with the terrorist cause, will in that case evaporate into thin air.
Without a doubt, identifying the potential affiliation of the arrested to one of the currently known and active terrorist organisations in Greece, can be a valuable step in solving the conundrum of the recent terrorist activity. Characteristics of some of the organisations can be deduced, links between them may be established and other critical information may become available to the authorities. The money trail, however, cannot only be instrumental in this regard but it can also serve as an Ariande’s clew, in identifying further involvement and more fundamental actors in the theatre of terrorism and not necessarily limited to that. Regardless of whether such an analysis would lead to substantiating a new trend of close collaboration between aspiring terrorists and the criminal world or whether it would lead to potentially more alarming indications of links to other players and interests, the value to comprehending the current terrorist scene and drawing some informed conclusions would be significant.