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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Charities operating in Syria may be funding extremists

Humanitarian groups told use of the border could involuntarily boost the coffers of extremist groups

A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands in a cemetary during battles against the Islamic State (IS) group. AFP 
A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands in a cemetary during battles against the Islamic State (IS) group. AFP 

Charities operating in Syria and Turkey may be breaching anti-terrorism law by unintentionally financing extremist groups operating along the border between Syria and Turkey, an independent British NGO regulator warned on Monday.

The Charity Commission issued an alert to warn charities responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria that their aid may involuntarily end up swelling the coffers of extremist groups and to remind them of their duties under counter-terrorism legislation and charity law.

The alert came following reports that the Bab Al-Hawa crossing is under the control of Hay’at Tahir Al-Sham (HTS), a group born as an al-Qaeda affiliate in 2011 and proscribed under the Terrorist Act 2000 since May 2017.

Charities and their partners use the Bab Al-Hawa crossing to deliver aid into the Idlib province in Syria, the last rebel stronghold in the country’s northwest.

The Commission warned that the extremist group could incur financial benefit from any aid passing through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing, therefore exposing charities and their partners to criminal charges under the act.

Charities that use partners to deliver aid from Turkey to Syria should ensure that they know which border crossings are being used and regularly review the situation on the ground, the regulator said.

“Trustees of charities which are currently using the Bab Al-Hawa crossing either directly or through partner organisations must consider the risks of committing an offence…and take appropriate action in the best interests of their charity,” the Commission said in a statement. “This may include suspending or stopping the movement of aid via the Bab Al-Hawa crossing at this time or exploring alternative routes.”

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