A newly released designation by the US Treasury Department identifies two alleged al Qaeda supporters who have raised funds for the terror network. The fundraising has benefited multiple al Qaeda branches, according to Treasury, and has at times totaled millions of dollars per month.
Some of this money has been funneled through a longtime al Qaeda operative known as Abu Khalid al Suri, who served as one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted couriers prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is now Ayman al Zawahiri’s main representative in the Levant. Al Suri is also a founding member of Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda-allied extremist group in Syria. [See LWJ report, Syrian rebel leader was bin Laden’s courier, now Zawahiri’s representative.]
One of the two alleged al Qaeda supporters identified by Treasury is ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi, who is described as “a Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator who has provided money and material support and conveyed communications to al Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen for more than a decade.” Nu’aymi “was considered among the most prominent Qatar-based supporters of Iraqi Sunni extremists.”
The designation makes it clear that al Qaeda’s Gulf donors are still funneling money to al Qaeda.
“In 2013,” the Treasury designation reads, “Nu’aymi ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al Qaeda via al Qaeda’s representative in Syria, Abu-Khalid al-Suri, and intended to transfer nearly $50,000 more.”
It appears the Treasury Department is referring to al Qaeda’s senior leadership in South Asia as the recipient of Nu’aymi’s funds. If so, the designation highlights the degree to which al Qaeda’s fundraising continues to rely on a cohesive network that reaches from the Gulf, through the Levant and Middle East, and into South Asia.
Nu’aymi “was designated for providing financial support to al Qaeda, Asbat al Ansar, al Qaeda in Iraq, and al Shabaab.” Asbat al Ansar is based in the Ayn al-Hilwah Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Al Qaeda in Iraq (now the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, or Levant) and Shabaab are official al Qaeda branches.
As recently as 2012, according to Treasury, Nu’aymi has been funneling cash to Shabaab leaders. As of mid-2012, Nu’aymi “provided approximately $250,000 to two US-designated al-Shabaab figures, Mukhtar Robow and Sheikh Hassan Aweys Ali,” who are longtime al Qaeda-connected leaders in Somalia.
Nu’aymi has been a prolific supporter of the Iraqi insurgency. He “reportedly oversaw the transfer of over $2 million per month to al Qaeda in Iraq for a period of time” and has served as an intermediary between al Qaeda leaders in Iraq and their “Qatar-based donors.”
“Between 2003 and 2004,” the Treasury Department says, “Nu’aymi provided support to the Iraqi insurgency more broadly and served as a conduit for their broadcast materials to media outlets.”
Key AQAP figure
Among the many recipients of Nuaymi’s funding is a Yemeni-based charity headed by `Abd al-Wahhab Muhammad `Abd al-Rahman al Humayqani, according to Treasury. Humayqani, who was also designated, has delivered at least some of the funds into al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) coffers. Humayqani has also “facilitated financial transfers from AQAP supporters in Saudi Arabia to Yemen in support of AQAP operations.”
But Humayqani has served multiple functions within AQAP, beyond his fundraising activities.
The Treasury Department describes Humayqani as “an important figure within AQAP” who has “reportedly had a relationship with important AQAP leaders.” On behalf of the al Qaeda branch, he has allegedly orchestrated attacks, recruited, provided spiritual guidance, and negotiated with the Yemeni government.
The US government fingers Humayqani as one of the chief planners of “an AQAP attack on a Yemeni Republican Guard base in al-Bayda’ Governorate, Yemen” in March 2012. “The attack employed multiple vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and killed seven.”
Some of the individuals he is suspected of recruiting for AQAP “were involved in a plot to assassinate Yemeni officials.”
The Treasury Department’s designation contains an important detail about one of Osama bin Laden’s earliest supporters. “Along with the US and UN designated cleric Shaykh Abd al-Majid al Zindani,” Humayqani “has issued religious guidance in support of AQAP operations.”
Zindani’s ties to al Qaeda have long been known. The Treasury Department added Zindani to its list of designated terrorist supporters in 2004, calling him an Osama bin Laden “loyalist.” Zindani “has a long history of working with bin Laden, notably serving as one of his spiritual leaders,” Treasury explained at the time. Zindani “has been able to influence and support many terrorist causes, including actively recruiting for al Qaeda training camps” and “played a key role in the purchase of weapons on behalf of al Qaeda and other terrorists.”
On Sept. 13, 2012, the US embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was stormed after Zindani called for protests, according to The New York Times. The assault on the American embassy in Sanaa was one of several raids by al Qaeda-affiliated parties on US diplomatic facilities that began on Sept. 11, 2012.
Designation notes al Qaeda’s political activity
The Treasury designation points to al Qaeda’s active political ambitions, which go far beyond the desire to commit spectacular terrorist attacks in the West or elsewhere.
“Humayqani and AQAP leadership have planned to establish a new political party in Yemen, which AQAP planned to use as a cover for the recruitment and training of fighters and a means to attract broader support,” Treasury notes. “AQAP leadership decided that Humayani would play a public role as a leader and spokesman for the new political party.”
One such new front is Ansar al Sharia, which Treasury described as an “alias” for AQAP in October 2012. Treasury explained in that action that Ansar al Sharia “was established to attract potential followers to sharia rule in areas under the control of AQAP.”
Humayqani has been a part of AQAP’s attempts at governance. He “reportedly assisted AQAP in gaining a foothold and safe haven in al-Bayda’ Governorate, Yemen and as of mid-2011 served as the acting AQAP amir there.”
Even while assisting AQAP in such local endeavors, Humayqani has remained active in al Qaeda’s global jihadist network.
The Treasury Department says that both Nu’aymi and Humayqani “are at the center of global support networks that fund and facilitate terrorism.”