Qatar-run organisation accused of funneling money to terrorists

The Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani Foundation is estimated to have funneled some $130 million to extremists in Syria.
Wednesday 26/02/2020
In this file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on March 28, 2015, a fighter from Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front holds his group flag, in Idlib, Syria. (AP)
In this file photo posted on the Twitter page of Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front on March 28, 2015, a fighter from Syria's al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front holds his group flag, in Idlib, Syria. (AP)

LONDON - A Qatari “humanitarian” organisation run by a royal family member has been accused of funnelling money to extremists in Syria and Sudan as part of the regime’s affinities with the Muslim Brotherhood and its jihadist offshoots. 

The Thani Bin Abdullah Al Thani for Humanitarian Services (RAF Foundation), a civil society group that claims to work on international emergency relief and development projects, has been linked to Syrian extremist groups and Brotherhood-linked armed groups in Sudan.

For years, the organisation has partnered with designated terror financiers to channel tens of millions of dollars in weapons and supplies to extremists, deepening conflict in the war-torn areas. 

One of the organisation’s members is an internationally designated terrorist Mohammed Jassim al-Sulaiti, who has a long track record of trafficking money and supplies to Syria’s al-Nusra front. 

Nabil al-Awadi and Shafi al-Ajmi, both blacklisted by the US and the UN as terror financiers, have also used the organisation to fund designated terror groups. 

Another terror financier that used the organisation to channel funds, Shafi, al-Ajm, even boasted about having received some $52,000 to “prepare the mujahideen” in Syria.

The total amount of money the organisation is suspected of providing to Syrian extremists is staggering. It is estimated to have funnelled some $130 million in weapons and supplies to extremists in Syria under the cover of humanitarian aid.  

Further evidence of impropriety is the banks it has used for transactions. Some transactions were made through Rayan Bank and Qatar Islamic Bank, both of which face corruption lawsuits and the former of which is being investigated by the UK for money laundering and terror financing. 

RAF’s activities are equally troubling in Sudan, where it has spent an estimated $37 million arming fighters in Darfur that are driven by the Muslim Brotherhood. 

In Sudan, the concern has been that the Qatari role might thwart the transitional phase in the country, and turn the mood of the street against the Transitional Council, and then hope to pave the way for the return to power, one way or the other, to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Qatar is also accused of having established many arms caches inside Sudan, to support groups loyal to Doha, whether on the political level such as establishing new parties or supporting existing parties close to the Muslim Brotherhood, led by the reform movement led by Ghazi Salah al-Din in order to control the political scene.

Doha’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliated groups is a major point of contention with its Gulf Arab neighbours, which have blacklisted RAF for terror financing. 

Journalist Andrew Gilligan mentioned the Qatari organisation’s alleged role in terror financing in an article in The Telegraph in 2014 titled “Club Med for Terrorists” in which he highlighted the regime’s broader efforts to fund designated terror groups in the region.  

“The evidence for the Qatari government’s own links with extremists – some of whom raised money that ended up with Isil (ISIS) – is irrefutable,” Gilligan wrote in the article. ‘“There are eight to 12 key figures in Qatar raising millions of pounds for the jihadis,’” he quoted one Western diplomat as saying. “‘There’s not even much attempt to keep quiet about it.”

On February 19, the Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, denied claims that Doha has provided support for any of the terrorist groups in Syria, explaining that his country has only supported the Syrian people through humanitarian organisations.

The Qatari minister told reporters in Brussels that “supporting the Syrian opposition at one point was a collective effort by a group of countries”.

On 5 June 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups across the region.

The four countries also imposed an embargo on Qatar and issued a 13-point list of demands ,including the severing of tirs with Islamic extremists and downgrading relations with Iran, under the threat of further sanctions.