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US Department of the Treasuy

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US Department of the Treasury

The US Department of Treasury has imposed sanctions on two Qatari men and added them to its global terrorist watchlist for allegedly supporting extremist groups in Syria.

In a statement released yesterday, Adam J. Szubin, acting under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said:

“These sanctions target two major facilitators of the al-Nusrah Front (ANF) and al-Qaida. Treasury remains committed to using our financial intelligence and authorities to unravel and disrupt the funding schemes exploited by terrorist groups.”

The two men have been identified as Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan Al Kaabi and Abdul-Latif Bin Abdallah Salih Muhammad Al Kuwari.

According to the US government, Al Kaabi, also known as Abu Suad, fund-raised inside of Qatar as early as last year for ANF after the group requested money to buy weapons and food.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The 43-year-old also allegedly worked to facilitate a ransom payment for a hostage held by ANF, and has been providing support to the group in Syria since at least 2012, the treasury said.

Meanwhile, Al Kuwari, 41, apparently served as an Al Qaeda security official and collected financial support for the group from Qatari donors, the US said.

He also allegedly worked with known Al-Qaeda operatives in the early 2000s to transfer money to the group in Pakistan.

‘No truth’

It is unclear if the two men are in Qatar, or if they are being held by authorities.

The Gulf country has been cracking down on charities that send funds abroad amid criticism that it is not doing to stop individuals from fundraising for extremist groups.

This latest designation comes the same week that US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Qatar to discuss Iran and the importance of establishing stability and security in the Middle East with Gulf leaders.

Also this week, Qatar’s foreign minister defended the country against accusations that it is communicating with Al-Qaeda-linked groups such as Al Nusra front in Syria.

Qatar foreign minister Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah

Ministerie van Buitenlands

Qatar foreign minister Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah

Speaking to the Associated Press, Dr. Khalid Al Attiyah said:

“All these rumors against Qatar defending the extremists or supporting the extremists in Syria (have) no truth.”

One of the most recent Qataris to be added to the watch list is Abdul Rahman Bin Umair Al Nuaimi.

In December 2013, the US government said that Al Nuaimi – a former Qatar University professor – was at one point overseeing the transfer of more than $2 million monthly to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

He was also accused of ordering the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al-Qaeda via its representative in Syria. Al Nuaimi denied the accusations.

Thoughts?

Note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Abdul Rahman Bin Umair Al Nuaimi is among the most recent Qataris to be added to the watch list, but not the most recent case.

Photos via Reem Al Harmi

A Qatari citizen who arrested by US authorities after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and detained for more than 13 years has reportedly been released after serving his sentence for conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda.

Ali bin Kahlah al-Marri, who had been classified as an “enemy combatant” by US prosecutors, was scheduled to be released from a maximum-security prison in Colorado today.

However, he was freed several days ahead of schedule and returned to Doha over the weekend, Al Jazeera reports.

His nephew, Saleh Kahla, was quoted by newswire AFP as saying al-Marri was warmly welcomed at Hamad International Airport by family and friends.

“Thank God his health and spirits are very excellent. His spirits were better than ours as we did not expect him to be in such good state,” he said.

Suspicion cast

Al-Marri was working in an environmental department for the Qatar government when he was sent to the US in 2001 for an educational training program, according to local lawyer Najeeb al-Nuaimi.

Al-Nuaimi did not represent al-Marri, but is familiar with the case and has in the past represented many individuals arrested on international terrorism-related charges, including al-Marri’s brother, who was released from Guantanamo Bay several years ago.

According to the FBI, al-Marri was pulled over for a traffic infraction.

A transcript of an interview with Art Cummings, the executive assistant director of the FBI’s national security branch, said a police officer took al-Marri back to his residence and observed a large amount of cash in a suitcase.

This apparently aroused suspicions and led to al-Marri eventually being arrested on charges related to credit card fraud as intelligence officers probed his links to the Sept. 11 conspirators, Cummings was quoted as saying.

He said a search of al-Marri’s computer revealed that he had done extensive research on various chemicals chemicals and poisons, including toxicity levels and where the items could be purchased.

Serving sentence

In the following years, al-Marri bounced between civilian courts and military tribunals – spending years in custody without being formally charged – and eventually pled guilty in a federal court in 2009 to charges of supporting al-Qaeda.

The New York Times reported he admitted to having attended terrorist training camps from 1998 to 2001.

Speaking to Doha News, Al-Nuaimi said that al-Marri made the confession as part of a plea deal for eight years in prison, with some credit for the time he had already served in custody.

Al-Marri cartoon.

Rahid Al Kuwari

Al-Marri cartoon.

It included an admission that he agreed to follow instructions given to him from al Qaeda leaders.

According to human rights organization Cage Prisoners, al-Marri may have agreed to the plea because, as his lawyer said, “…he wanted to go home.”

The group alleges that during the first 17 months of his detention, prison guards would routinely turn off the water to al-Marri’s cell and lower the temperature to “extremely cold” levels without providing him with additional clothes or blankets.

In a statement complaining about his treatment, CAGE added:

“Al-Marri, a devout Muslim, complains that military officials have not permitted him to meet with a Muslim cleric, do not let him have a prayer mat and punish him if he follows his religion’s requirement to cover his head while he prays (he uses a shirt for this purpose). They do not tell him the direction of Mecca, so he does not know in which direction to pray; nor do they provide him with a clock, so he does not know when to pray.”

Al-Nuaimi noted that prior to 2001, many Gulf residents traveled to Afghanistan – which was then under Taliban rule – and visited al Qaeda members.

He said al-Marri had traveled regularly to Pakistan and likely slipped into Afghanistan, but was not a member of the organization.

“As a member, he would have received a life sentence,” al-Nuaimi told Doha News. “It was guilt by association.”

Thoughts?

cash

Eszter Hargittai / Flickr

As Qatar tries to convince critics that it’s cracking down on ISIL fundraisers within its borders, the US government has designated four men with ties to the Gulf country as terrorists for their alleged financial activities.

The accusations involve private individuals and not government officials. However, some of the men appear to have already had run-ins with local authorities for similar fundraising activities.

In a statement released last week, the US Treasury Department said that a “Qatar-based ISIL financial facilitator” – which it did not identify – raised $2 million that was to be sent to the armed organization in September 2013.

The payment was arranged by Tariq Bin-Al-Tahar Bin Al Falih Al-‘Awni Al-Harzi, a Tunisian that the US called the “Amir of suicide bombers,” who allegedly assisted with the fundraising efforts in Qatar.

Another individual, Ashraf Muhammad Yusuf Uthman Abdul Salam – a Jordanian who at one point held a Qatar residence permit – is accused of working to facilitate the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda in Pakistan in mid-2012.

The money apparently came from Khalifa Muhammad Turki al-Subaiy, a Qatar-based ISIL fundraiser who was designated a terrorist financier by the United Nations in 2008. That same year, he was convicted in absentia by a Bahraini court for financing terrorism and facilitating the travel of other individuals so they could receive terrorist training. He was subsequently arrested and jailed in Qatar.

Separately, two other men – a Qatari and a Jordanian who held a Qatar residence permit – are accused of purchasing and transporting weapons to Syria with the help of an al-Qaeda associate in that country, according to the US.

The Jordanian, Abdul Malik Muhammad Yusuf ‘Uthman Abdul Salam, was arrested by Lebanese authorities in Beirut in May 2012 as he attempted to head to Doha.

The US government said the Qatari, Ibrahim Isa Hajji Muhammad al-Bakr, belonged to a terrorist cell that plotted to attack American military bases and personnel in Qatar as early as 2006.

Al-Bakr was arrested in Qatar in the early 2000s for his involvement in what the US calls a “jihadist network,” but was subsequently released after promising not to conduct terrorist activity in his home country.

Last week’s designations follow a similar move by the US Treasury Department in December 2013, when it accused former Qatar University professor Abdul Rahman Bin Umair Al Nuaimi of providing financial support to Al Qaeda, among other groups. He has denied the allegations.

The American designation freezes any assets under US jurisdiction held by the individuals, as well as prohibiting Americans from engaging in financial and commercial transactions with the designees.

New rules

The US Treasury Department’s new designations involve activities that allegedly took place before Qatar introduced new rules that make it harder for charities to send funds abroad.

As of earlier this month, organizations must now obtain special permission prior to sending funds to groups outside the country, and must also provide local authorities receipts and other details of the transaction.

Last year, the US State Department said Qatar’s efforts to reduce money laundering and financing of armed organizations “are lacking” and that the country’s monitoring of private individuals’ and charitable associations’ contributions to foreign entities “remained inconsistent.”

However, the Switzerland-based Basel Institute on Governance recently concluded that Qatar has become less susceptible to money laundering and terrorist financing in recent years, and is the least at-risk state in the GCC, behind Oman.

As the international attention on ISIL increased this year, Qatar faced a growing chorus of criticism that it funds the armed group, or at least turns a blind eye to those raising money for it in the Gulf state.

Up until recently, comments made by government ministers appeared to only directly defend the actions of the state and not private individuals.

In late August, the country’s foreign minister said “Qatar does not endorse any extremist group in any way” in a Huffington Post op-ed. Speaking in Germany several weeks later, the Emir made a similar statement, saying “Qatar has never and will never support terrorist organizations.”

However, in a CNN interview aired Thursday, the Emir appeared to go further by mentioning the role of individuals for the first time when he said he did not “accept anybody funding … certain movements, especially in Syria and Iraq.”

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