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Applying Social Network Analysis to Terrorist Financing


This chapter posits social network analysis as a means to making links between terrorism and organized crime more apparent. Drawing on evidence from select Hezbollah and Al-Shabaab financing networks, it shows the relative autonomy local operators enjoy in using pornography, contraband cigarettes, immigration fraud and credit card fraud to raise funds. That network’s structure shows that Hezbollah is no less a terrorist organization than an organized crime syndicate: Transnational Organized Crime nodes are typically connected to many other nodes in the network. Hezbollah’s fundraising networks allow such connectivity because of the group’s typically high levels of mutual trust and familial relationships. This creates a vulnerability that can be exploited by law enforcement and intelligence organizations.


  • Social Network Analysis
  • Terrorist financing
  • Hezbollah and Al-Shabaab
  • Organized crime

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-64498-1_39
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Fig. 39.1
Fig. 39.2
Fig. 39.3


  1. 1.

    Celina B Realuyo, ‘Finding the Islamic State’s Weak Spot’ (2015) 28 The Journal of International Security Affairs 73; Chris Dishman, ‘Terrorism, Crime, and Transformation’ (2005) 24(1) Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 43.

  2. 2.

    The White House, ‘Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security’ (2011), Cover letter < y_to_Combat_Transnational_Organized_Crime_July_2011.pdf> accessed 21 March 2017.

  3. 3.

    Australian Crime Commission, Media Release, ‘Task Force Eligo Generates More Than $580 Million in Cash, Drugs, and Assets’ (23 January 2014) <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  4. 4.

    This chapter synthesizes evidence that previously appeared in Christian Leuprecht and others, ‘Hezbollah’s Global Tentacles: A Relational Approach to Convergence with Transnational Organised Crime’ Terrorism and Political Violence (2017) 29(5) 902. Christian Leuprecht and Kenneth Hall, ‘Why Terror Networks are Dissimilar: How Structure Relates to Function’ in Anthony J Masys (ed), Networks and Network Analysis for Defence and Security (Springer 2014); Christian Leuprecht and Kenneth Hall, ‘Networks as Strategic Repertoires: Functional Differentiation Among Al-Shabaab Terror Cells’ (2013) 14(2–3) Global Crime 287.

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    Michael Freeman, Financing Terrorism: Case Studies (Ashgate Publishing 2012).

  6. 6.

    Walter W Powell, ‘Neither Market nor Hierarchy: Network forms of Organization’ (1990) 12 Research in Organizational Behaviour 295.

  7. 7.

    For example, see Marc Sageman, Understanding Terror Networks (University of Pennsylvania Press 2004); Sean Everton, Disrupting Dark Networks (CUP 2013); Renée van der Hulst, ‘Terrorist Networks: The Threat of Connectivity’ in John Scott and Peter J Carrington (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Social Network Analysis (SAGE 2011).

  8. 8.

    Olivier Walther and Dimitris Christopoulos, ‘Islamic Terrorism and the Malian Rebellion’ (2014) 27(3) Terrorism and Political Violence 497; Ian A McCulloh, Kathleen M Carley, and Matthew Webb, ‘Social Network Monitoring of Al-Qaeda’ (2007) 1(1) Network Science 25; Arie Perliger and Ami Pedahzur, ‘Social Network Analysis in the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence’ (2011) 44(1) PS: Political Science & Politics 45.

  9. 9.

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  10. 10.

    Carlo Morselli, ‘Assessing Vulnerable and Strategic Positions in a Criminal Network’ (2010) 26(4) Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 382; Cale Horne and John Horgan, ‘Methodological Triangulation in the Analysis of Terrorist Networks’ (2012) 35(2) Studies In Conflict & Terrorism 182.

  11. 11.

    Morselli (n 10).

  12. 12.

    Carlo Morselli and Julie Roy, ‘Brokerage Qualifications in Ringing Operations’ (2008) 46(1) Criminology 71; Emma S Spiro, Ryan M Acton, and Carter T Butts, ‘Extended Structures of Mediation: Re-Examining Brokerage in Dynamic Networks’ (2013) 35(1) Social Networks 130.

  13. 13.

    Morselli (n 10).

  14. 14.

    Burt ‘The Network Structure’ (n 9).

  15. 15.

    Morselli (n 10).

  16. 16.

    Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Calvert Jones, ‘Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why Al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think’ (2008) 33(2) International Security 12.

  17. 17.

    US v Mohamud Abdi Yusuf, Duane Mohamed Diriye and Abdi Mahdi Hussein [2010] Indictment (USDC, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division).

  18. 18.


  19. 19.


  20. 20.

    Of this network, only Ali and the book-keeper (Hawo Mohamed Hassan) were indicted on charges by the US government. Information about unindicted co-conspirators was crucial to justifying these indictments and is important here in accurately portraying the nature of this network’s activities and the structure of the network necessary for these activities. US v Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan (2010) Indictment (USDC, District of Minnesota).

  21. 21.

    See Leuprecht and others (n 4) 6.

  22. 22.

    Mathew Levitt, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God (Hurst & Co 2013).

  23. 23.

    Tom Diaz and Barbara Newman, Lightning out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil (Ballantine Books 2005) 88.

  24. 24.

    Republican Staff of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, ‘Tobacco And Terror: How Cigarette Smuggling Is Funding Our Enemies Abroad Prepared By The Republican Staff Of The U.S. House Committee On Homeland Security U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Ranking Member’ <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  25. 25.

    Levitt (n 22).

  26. 26.

    Diaz and Newman (n 23).

  27. 27.


  28. 28.

    Levitt (n 22).

  29. 29.

    US v Elias Mohamad Akhdar et al [2003] 2 Government’s Written Proffer in Support of its Request for Detention Pending Trial (USDC, Eastern District of Michigan Southern Division).

  30. 30.

    Republican Staff of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security (n 24).

  31. 31.

    US v Elias Mohamad Akhdar et al [2004] Indictment (USDC, Eastern District Of Michigan Southern Division) 4–5.

  32. 32.

    Ibid. 5–8.

  33. 33.

    Elias Mohamad Akhdar (n 29).

  34. 34.

    Levitt (n 22) 321.

  35. 35.

    Given, as is the case, that the receiving node controls the information (i.e. the account numbers that correspond to his subordinates) that allows the sending broker to successfully transfer funds to these nodes.

  36. 36.

    Rene M Bakker, Jorg Raab, and H Brinton Milward, ‘A Preliminary Theory of Dark Network Resilience’ (2012) 31(1) Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 33.

  37. 37.

    Elias Mohamad Akhdar (n 29).

  38. 38.

    Vladis E Krebs, ‘Mapping Networks of Terrorist Cells’ (2002) 24(3) Connections 43.

  39. 39.

    Brian Joseph Reed, Formalizing the Informal: A Network Analysis of an Insurgency (2006) unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Maryland.

  40. 40.

    James Habyarimana and others, Coethnicity: Diversity and the Dilemmas of Collective Action (Russell Sage Foundation 2009).

  41. 41.

    Carlo Morselli, Thomas Gabor, and John Kiedrowski, ‘The Factors That Shape Criminal Networks’ (2010) Organized Crime Research Brief No 7, 26 <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  42. 42.

    Cynthia Stohl and Michael Stohl, ‘Networks of Terror: Theoretical Assumptions and Pragmatic Consequences’ (2007) 17(2) Communication Theory 115.

  43. 43.

    Kathleen M Carley and others, ORA User’s Guide 2013 (2013) Carnegie Mellon Center of the Computational Analysis of Social and Organization Systems, Technical Report 13-108 <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  44. 44.

    Bakker, Raab, and Brinton Milward (n 36). See also Paul A Duijn, Victor Kashirin, and Peter Sloot, ‘The Relative Ineffectiveness of Criminal Network Disruption’ (2014) 4 Nature Scientific Reports 4238.

  45. 45.

    Michael LaFaive, Patrick Fleenor, and Todd Nesbit, ‘Michigan From 1990 to the Present’ (2008) Mackinac Centre for Public Policy Study <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  46. 46.

    Michael LaFaive, Patrick Fleenor, and Todd Nesbitt, ‘Cigarette Taxes and Smuggling: A Statistical Analysis and Historical Review’ (2008) Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 40 <> accessed 21 March 2017.

  47. 47.

    Stohl and Stohl (n 42) 107.

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Leuprecht, C., Walther, O. (2018). Applying Social Network Analysis to Terrorist Financing. In: King, C., Walker, C., Gurulé, J. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Criminal and Terrorism Financing Law. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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