US Sanctions Indonesian NGO for Alleged Terror Financing in Syria

BenarNews staff
2022.02.03
Washington
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US Sanctions Indonesian NGO for Alleged Terror Financing in Syria Hundreds of activists from Islamic organizations including the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia protest in Solo, Indonesia, Nov. 4, 2016.
Kusumasari Ayuningtyas/BenarNews

Updated at 5:28 p.m. ET on 2022-02-03

The United States announced Thursday that it was sanctioning an Indonesian charity under an executive order on terrorism financing for allegedly providing funds to militants in Syria under the “guise of humanitarian aid.”

The U.S. government took the action against World Human Care, an NGO, on the same day President Joe Biden announced that the top leader of the Islamic State terror group was killed during an overnight raid by American special forces in northwestern Syria.

The death of global IS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, who, according to Biden, blew himself up as U.S. personnel were closing in, followed soon after the end of a bloody 10-day battle between international coalition forces and IS fighters who had blasted their into a Syrian prison to free hundreds of their incarcerated comrades.

“This sanctions action is taken under Executive Order 13224, as amended, which targets terrorists, leaders, and officials of terrorist groups, and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on the U.S. action taken against World Human Care.

The Indonesian NGO was created by the Indonesia-based Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), which is also known as the Indonesian Mujahidin Council and which Washington proscribed as a global terrorist group in 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

The Treasury Department said the NGO focused on funding militants in Syria.

“Actions by entities such as World Human Care are deplorable not only for their support for terrorist organizations but also because they do so by abusing the work and reputation of genuine humanitarian aid providers worldwide,” the department said in a news release announcing the measures against the Indonesian NGO.

US takes out IS leader

Meanwhile on Thursday morning (local time), President Biden announced that the top IS leader, also known as Hajji Abdullah, had been killed during a counterterrorist operation the night before.

“He was responsible for the recent brutal attack on a prison in northeast Syria holding ISIS fighters, which was swiftly addressed by our brave partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the president said, using another acronym for the Islamic State extremist group.

“This operation is testament to America’s reach and capability to take out terrorist threats no matter where they try to hide anywhere in the world,” Biden went on to say, according to a transcript from the White House.

The siege of the prison by IS had ended only days earlier. The battle began on Jan. 20, when Islamic State fighters set off a truck-bomb that to break into the prison, reports said.

The bombing ignited a battle that spilled into the nearby streets, the Washington Post reported, and it drew in American and British combat forces who were backing up their Syrian Kurdish forces who were trying to end the siege.

Warplanes and military helicopters were also brought in to help break it. More than 500 people were killed during the fighting that ended on Jan. 29 and scores of prisoners escaped, according to a report by the Post.

The brazen assault on the prison by IS and the scale and intensity of the response that it provoked “energized global supporters of the Islamic State like little else since its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq was defeated three years ago,” according to the Post.

Sanctioning an NGO

In Washington on Thursday, U.S. Treasury officials described World Human Care as MMI’s “charitable organization” and said the NGO had been involved in some legitimate humanitarian activities.

But “the main objective of the organization was to serve as a cover to raise funds for MMI sympathizers in Syria. In early 2016, World Human Care transferred money to Syria not only for humanitarian needs but also for weapons and fighters there,” the statement said.

World Human Care had held fundraisers near Jakarta only to transfer money that was raised from them to al-Qaeda-linked “elements in Syria,” Treasury officials said.

“In an advertisement on World Human Care’s website soliciting donations for a humanitarian project in Syria, donors were advised to send money to a bank account in the care of an MMI official,” the department said.

Discussing the sanctions against World Human Care, the department said “regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States … that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.”

In 2017, a leader of the 500-member MMI based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, rejected the U.S. terror designation against his organization.

“I do not know how MMI can become a global terrorist [organization],” MMI Secretary-General Shabbarin Syakur told BenarNews at the time. “We have not even conducted any activities for years and MMI is anti-ISIS.”

The State Department has said MMI was formed in 2000 by Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, which the U.S. has also proscribed as a foreign terrorist organization. Indonesian authorities have blamed Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda, for the 2002 Bali bombings and other terrorist attacks targeting Indonesian cities in the 2000s.

The 2017 designation surprised Sidney Jones, a terrorism analyst who is now a senior adviser after serving as director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, a Jakarta think-tank.

“It makes no sense and it’s outrageous [that MMI] is labeled a terrorist organization, while it has never committed any violence,” Jones told BenarNews at the time.

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