US accuses men of raising funds for ISIL, al-Qaeda in Qatar

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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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