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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

US designates Qataris terror financiers over Al Nusra ‘support’

A senior official said the move would have 'a significant disruptive effect, and significantly impact the ability of groups like Al Qaeda and Jabhat Al Nusra to raise funds in the Gulf', reports Taimur Khan.
The two men are accused of being involved in a Qatar-based social networking site that raised a “significant” amount of funds for Jabhat Al Nusra, some of whose fighters are pictured here in northwestern Syrian. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights/AP Photo
The two men are accused of being involved in a Qatar-based social networking site that raised a “significant” amount of funds for Jabhat Al Nusra, some of whose fighters are pictured here in northwestern Syrian. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights/AP Photo

NEW YORK // The United States treasury added two Qatari citizens to its list of designated financiers of terrorism on Wednesday, accusing them of raising funds for Jabhat Al Nusra, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“These are important terrorist financiers and we do think this action is going to have a significant disruptive effect, and significantly impact the ability of groups like Al Qaeda and Al Nusra to raise funds in the Gulf region,” a senior administration official said.

Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan Al Ka’bi was key in the development of a social networking site based in Qatar that raised a “significant” amount of funds for Al Nusra, the official said, without specifying how much money had been raised.

Mr Al Ka’bi was also asked by a Nusra commander to act as an intermediary tasked with collecting a ransom for a hostage held by the militant group, and, in a separate incident, “worked to facilitate a ransom payment” for the release of a hostage, according to a treasury statement.

The second Qatari, Abd Al Latif Bin ’Abdallah Salih Muhammad Al Kawari, was also involved with the online fundraising platform, Madad Ahl Al Sham, but primarily helped to raise and arrange the delivery of funds for Al Qaeda Central in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Qatari donors, the official said.

The designation of the Nusra fundraisers was not tied to recent attacks by the group on US-trained and armed Syrian rebels, which have taken the US by surprise, the official said.

The US’s regional allies maintain intelligence links to Al Nusra, which is one of the most effective groups fighting the Syrian regime and also ISIL, and is seen by some commentators as a lesser evil to the latter. The US designation may have been intended as a message on any ambiguity towards Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda group that US officials see as posing perhaps a more serious threat to western targets than ISIL.

The designations show that while “we are very much focused on ISIL and ... taking every step that we can to deprive ISIL of its financing, it doesn’t mean we’ve taken our eye off the ball with respect to the financing of other terrorist groups,” the official said.

Qatar has previously been described as “a permissive terrorist financing environment” by US treasury officials, but the senior administration official said that Doha’s efforts to shut down terrorist fundraising networks have improved since the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Al Thani, met US president Barack Obama at the White house earlier this year.

“The cooperation that we have received from the Qataris on this matter is a testament that our relationship is improving and growing,” the official said, adding: “We are sure that they will” do everything they can to crack down on terrorist fundraising.

Despite this, however, the official said Qatar has not arrested the two men, and that “there continues to be concerns about terrorist financing going on in Qatar”.

While Doha has shut down the Madad Ahl Al Sham social network, “it’s as – if not more – important to ensure that these individuals do not have the ability to continue” to fundraise “through any other means”.

tkhan@thenational.ae