LONDON - The gas-rich Gulf emirate of Qatar has in the last few years funneled hundreds of millions of dollars to extremist groups and terrorist organisations through its charities.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a political and economic boycott of Qatar in June 2017 over allegations that Doha was backing terrorism.
In order to destabilise its rivals and assert its authority in the region, Qatar has provided financial aid and weapons to Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria, while harbouring leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and Hamas.
Among the charities suspected of sponsoring extremists is the Qatari-based Sheikh Thani Bin Abdullah Foundation for Humanitarian Services known as “RAF Foundation”, which is known for funding Syrian armed groups and hosting supporters of the Al-Qaeda terror group.
Al-Nusra Front facilitator and terror-listed Mohammed Jassim al-Sulaiti was identified as a member of an RAF Foundation delegation led by RAF’s General Manager.
Nabil al-Awadi and Shafi bin Sultan al-Ajmi are on both US and UN blacklists for raising money through RAF Foundation to fund terrorism.
Wagdy Ghoneim, a fundraising associate of UN- and US-sanctioned Al-Qaeda facilitators Saad bin Saad al-Kaabi and Abdullatif bin Abdullah al-Kawari, was a guest lecturer at a number of RAF Foundation events in Qatar to raise funds in support of RAF’s activities in Syria.
The Qatari foundation funneled millions of dollars to Nusra Front, which is now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
The Qatari government has acted as an intermediary on other occasions to negotiate ransom payments for the release of Western hostages from the Nusra Front.
Between 2012 and 2015, Qatar negotiated tens of millions of dollars in ransom payments to the Nusra Front in exchange for the release of European nationals, according to a US court document.
American photojournalist Matthew Schrier, who was captured by Al-Nusra Front in 2012, is accusing Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) of directly funding Qatar Charity that provided funds for terrorist groups in Syria.
In a federal lawsuit filed in Florida on January 13, Schrier sought damages for his claim that the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham relied on QIB to provide financial services to an international network of donors and charities that helps fund their operations.
He also claims that QIB donated a substantial sum to Qatar Charity, which is known for funding Islamist and terror groups in the MENA region.
“QIB acted willfully, wantonly, recklessly, or with deliberate disregard to the Nusra Front’s assault on Americans in Syria, including Mr. Schrier,” said the federal complaint.
Qatar Charity operated in northern Mali when it was controlled by Islamist groups. It has also raised suspicious over its role in Sudan which is seen as strengthening the Muslim Brotherhood and their armed groups there.
The RAF Foundation is suspected of supporting and financing extremist groups and inter-tribal ethnic conflicts from Darfur to Port Sudan.