Bottom line: Terrorists are turning to the dark web’s crypto-bazaars, social media channels and e-commerce sites to buy more coveted military equipment than the usual rocket launchers and AK-47s in the traditional black market. These digital black markets are also allowing terrorist organizations from Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, as well as self-radicalized individuals in the West, to access a larger assortment of arms, explosives material and expertise from the comfort and anonymity of their home computers.
Background: Traditionally, militant groups have armed themselves by raiding local military and police depots, purchasing weaponry from transnational criminal networks or acquiring military hardware from international and regional backers. In internationalized conflict zones and civil wars with significant levels of violence, where small arms and light weapons saturate a country’s shadow economy, such traditional methods will continue to predominate for large-scale insurgencies.
- The capture of weapons from opposing security forces is often the primary method of attaining access to arms for militant groups. Following the February 2011 uprising against Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, rebels and other militant and criminal groups looted the arsenals of the fallen state, creating a stockpile of weapons, from heavy machine guns and grenade launchers to antiaircraft missiles, that has fueled violence throughout the country and spilled out across the region.