KEY POINTS

  • Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, earned an annual income of $300 million in 2018
  • In the same year, the Taliban group made a total of $800 million
  • The Hezbollah was reportedly the richest terrorist group in the world in 2018 with an annual income of $1.1 billion

Terrorist groups around the world are seen as a constant threat due to their power and ambitions. Many of the most infamous groups have massive wealth that allow them to fund their endeavors, but which of these groups is the richest?

In 2017, which many considered to be one of the deadliest years in terms of terrorist attacks, eight large-scale attacks were executed. Al-Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban group have been responsible for planning, financing and carrying out six of them. In total, the events resulted in the deaths of nearly 1,500 people in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt and Somalia.

About 70% of the worldwide terrorist attacks in 2016 was carried out by these three major terrorist groups, as per the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database. A group’s deadliness and wealth go hand-in-hand.

“There is a clear connection between the two factors,” Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilead, the chairperson of the Institute for Policy and Strategy and former director of the Defense Ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, said in an interview with Forbes Israel. A list of the richest terrorist groups in the world in 2018 was compiled by the outlet. Find out how these groups actually make money to fund their terrorist attacks.

#5 ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)

Despite being one of the most infamous terrorist groups, ISIS is only the top five richest on the list with a total annual income estimated at $200 million. The group reached its peak in 2014 when its territory extended to more than 100,000 km, an area larger than South Korea.

The main source of money the group had was from its roughly 10 million oppressed population. The region that the group controlled contained oil and gas fields, rich mineral deposits and fertile agricultural lands they financially benefited from.

#4 Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda, most known for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has an estimated total annual income of $300 million. The majority of the group’s finances are made from the illegal trade of drugs, weapons, automobiles and people. They also dabbled in the illegal trade of cigarettes and tobacco to fund their deadly attacks.

#3 Hamas

With a massive estimated annual income of $700 million, the Hamas group was able to conduct several large-scale terrorist attacks worldwide. Despite the massive unemployment rate and the catastrophic situation in Gaza, Hamas earned tens of millions of dollars every month. The group’s primary source of income came from a sophisticated and elaborate tax network that redirected significant capital flowing into Gaza as aid.

#2 The Taliban

Similar to ISIS, the Taliban group operates a financial mechanism that takes advantage of its territory to generate income. A greater population and area provide more access to resources and potential revenue streams that have allowed the group to have an estimated annual income of $800 million. The primary source of income for the group is the illegal drug trade, mainly opium and heroin.

#1 Hezbollah (Hizballah)

Hizballah benefited from the nuclear agreement of the Iranian government and became the richest terrorist group in the world with a lucrative $1.1 billion annual income. Due to previous issues with income, the terrorist group expanded its earnings to several sectors, Forbes has learned. They created false charities that raised money and support worldwide, conducted real estate dealings and ran “used car” dealerships through private business entrepreneurs.

The Taliban now control vast swathes of rural Afghanistan and are challenging government forces in several cities The Taliban now control vast swathes of rural Afghanistan and are challenging government forces in several cities Photo: AFP / WAKIL KOHSAR