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Resignation of Kuwait minister in alleged terror aid row rejected

Monday, Apr 07, 2014

Manama: The resignation of a Kuwaiti minister accused by a senior US official of involvement in funding terrorism has been rejected, a local report said.

Nayef Al Ajmi, the Minister of Justice and Minister of Islamic Endowments and Islamic Affairs, said that he submitted his resignation on Thursday. The minister said that he had requested to be relieved of his post for health reasons way before the controversial claims about his activities were made.

However, on Monday, Al Rai daily said the resignation had been turned down and that Al Ajmi would remain in the government.

“I will obey the orders of the political leadership and will continue along the same path I have started,” Al Ajmi said.

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The minister last week defended himself from the accusations of financially supporting religious extremists in Syria.

“I have regularly pleaded for not raising arms and explained that people should resort to weapons only when they need to defend themselves from aggressions and assaults,” Al Ajmi was quoted as saying by the Kuwaiti daily on Friday.

“As for voluntary work, it is an integral part of me and I am so proud of being involved in charitable activities. In fact, it is my greatest pleasure in life. I have never been to Syria before or during the dramatic events. I have just had the chance to support the people through charitable and humanitarian work,” he said.

The minister was last month challenged by a lawmaker to defend his record following plain accusations by a US official that he was involved in funding terrorism or hand in his resignation.

“The undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen has recently said that the appointment of Nayef Al Ajmi to be both Minister of Justice and Minister of Islamic Endowments and Islamic Affairs was a step in the wrong direction,” MP Nabeel Al Fadhl has said.

“Cohen added that the minister has a history of promoting terrorism. We expect the minister to either hand in his resignation immediately or reject the accusations and sue the US official. Lapsing into silence will only fuel speculation and doubt,” the lawmaker said.

In his March 4 remarks before the Centre for a New American Security on Confronting New Threats in Terrorist Financing, Cohen said that although “much of the private fund-raising in the Gulf related to Syria is motivated by a sincere and admirable desire to ease suffering, and the funds are used for legitimate humanitarian purposes, a number of fund-raisers operating particularly in Kuwait and Qatar are soliciting donations to fund extremist insurgents, not to meet legitimate humanitarian needs”

“The recipients of these funds are often terrorist groups, including Al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), the group formerly known as Al Qaida in Iraq (AQI).”

For the US official, the influx of funds to these groups in Syria poses a serious challenge.

“Apart from their highly destabilising role in the ongoing conflict there, these well-funded and well-equipped groups may soon turn their attention to attacks outside of Syria, particularly as scores of newly radicalised and freshly trained foreign recruits return from Syria to their home countries,” he said.

He added that the US, in order to confront the challenge, was closely tracking the movement of funds to Syria, especially funds coming out of the Gulf.

“We have already targeted and applied sanctions against several key fund-raisers, extremist leaders, and terrorist organisations. We are also actively supporting our partners throughout the region in their efforts to stem the tide of funding to extremists operating in Syria,” Cohen said.

However, he added that “Kuwait has become the epicentre of fund-raising for terrorist groups in Syria.”

“A number of Kuwaiti fund-raisers exploit the charitable impulses of unwitting donors by soliciting humanitarian donations from both inside and outside the country, cloaking their efforts in humanitarian garb, but diverting those funds to extremist groups in Syria. Donors who already harbour sympathies for Syrian extremists have found in Kuwait fund-raisers who openly advertise their ability to move funds to fighters in Syria.

“While we congratulate the Kuwaiti Government on steps it has taken recently to enhance its capacity to combat illicit finance, such as enacting a new law outlawing terrorist financing, we urge the Kuwaitis to do more to effectively stem the flow of money to terrorists,” he said.

The US official added that following Al Ajmi’s appointment as minister, “the Ministry of Endowments announced it would allow non-profit organisations and charities to collect donations for the Syrian people at Kuwaiti mosques, a measure we believe can be easily exploited by Kuwait-based terrorist fund-raisers.”

By Habib Toumi Bureau Chief

Gulf News 2014. All rights reserved.

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