Two top fundraisers and charitable givers in Islamic countries have been donating millions of dollars to fund al-Qaeda and similar groups, according to the United States Treasury Department.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that top Islamic charity officials like Abd al-Rahman al-Nu’aymi, a professor and human rights worker in Qatar, have raised and donated millions of dollars to terrorist-affiliated groups in Syria and Iraq, all the while supporting greater freedoms for Muslims, according to a Treasury Department investigation.
The other man the Treasury identified, Abd al-Wahhab al-Humayqani, a Yemeni, is also an international human rights leader and an advisor to government-backed foundations in Qatar. He is also a major player in Yemen’s U.S.-backed political transition.
There was been an uptick in private support for Syria’s jihadist groups, especially in Qatar and Kuwait, according to U.S. officials. Such seemingly contradictory roles of government and rights’ leader and extremist supporter are not uncommon, they say.
“Individuals with one foot in the legitimate world and another in the realm of terrorist financing provide al-Qaeda with a cloak of legitimacy,” said Juan Zarate, a former Treasury Department official involved in the Treasury’s “financial diplomacy” efforts to cut off terrorist funding by wealthy private individuals.
The administration labeled both men as “specially designated global terrorists,” which allows it to freeze their financial assets and prevent American citizens and companies from dealing with them. The administration’s documents corroborate Zarate’s statement that the officials use their charitable activities to cover up fundraising for al-Qaeda and similar groups.
Both men are vocal critics of U.S. drone strokes and other counterterrorism measures. Their designation as “global terrorists” is seen by their supporters as a politically motivated attack.
Obama administration efforts to track support for jihadists have included using Twitter and other social media, as Islamic charities often solicit donations for terrorist groups publicly. Ny’aymi used Twitter as a platform to respond to the actions taken against him by the U.S., posting last week that their accusations were “far from the truth” and were backlash for his criticism of U.S. policies.
Humayqani also released a statement via his Rashad Union party calling on the Yemeni government to defend him from America’s “false accusations.”
Elizabeth Dickinson, Gulf correspondent for The National, wrote that the U.S. has “underestimated” private donor support for the opposition in Syria, with millions of dollars being funneled through Kuwait. However, Kuwait’s private charities also do a lot of good in the region. Thus it’s necessary that the administration separate support for human rights and other causes, and support for terrorist groups.