Doha, May 13 (AP): Qatar, a key U.S. ally within the Persian Gulf, is dealing with elevated scrutiny over its alleged monetary ties to terrorism in a lawsuit from family members of a slain American journalist and a separate federal investigation right into a member of the nation’s royal household.
The household of Steven Sotloff alleged in a federal lawsuit Friday that outstanding Qatari establishments wired $800,000 to an Islamic State “decide” who ordered the homicide of Sotloff and one other American journalist, James Foley. The two have been beheaded in Syria in 2014, their killings filmed and revealed in grisly propaganda movies.
“We need to do all the things we will to verify no different household has to undergo what we’ve got suffered,” the Sotloff household mentioned in an announcement explaining their lawsuit.
Separately, federal prosecutors have been investigating potential ties between terror teams and Khalid bin Hamad Al-Thani, the half-brother of Qatar’s ruling emir, in response to paperwork reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with two folks accustomed to the investigation.
A grand jury investigation, run out of the Southern District of New York, has centered partly on whether or not Khalid Al Thani supplied cash and provides to Al Nusra, al-Qaeda’s department in Syria, mentioned the 2 folks. They spoke on situation of anonymity as a result of they weren’t licensed to debate the matter publicly.
Qatar has loved a powerful relationship with the Biden administration. The world’s wealthiest nation per capita performed a key position in evacuations from Afghanistan and its enormous provides of pure gasoline may assist maintain Europe’s power markets amid Russia’s battle in Ukraine. Qatar may additionally play a crucial position in President Joe Biden’s bid to revive a nuclear cope with Iran.
The Qatari Embassy mentioned it wanted extra info earlier than it may remark concerning the reported investigation, and didn’t instantly touch upon the lawsuit.
Earlier this 12 months, Biden designated Qatar a significant non-NATO ally, a transfer that may very well be useful within the nation’s bid to get U.S. approval for a greater than $500 million sale of MQ-9 Reaper drones. Qatar is house to the most important U.S. Air Force base within the Gulf.
“Qatar is an efficient pal and a dependable associate,” Biden mentioned in January whereas internet hosting Qatar’s ruling emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, on the White House.
But Qatar, which was one of many strongest worldwide backers of the riot in opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, has lengthy confronted criticism from some U.S. officers for permitting or encouraging funding of extremists teams in Syria, in addition to for its direct and oblique assist of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
Qatar has mentioned it condemns terrorism, however officers have additionally conceded its efforts might have helped the improper folks.
“Look, in Syria, all people did errors, together with your nation,” Hamad bin Jassim Al-Thani, Qatar’s former prime minister and international minister, mentioned in a 2017 interview with American journalist Charlie Rose. He added that Qatar had by no means deliberately funded extremists teams in Syria and had minimize off funding to any group it discovered had one other “agenda.” Lawyers for the Sotloff household mentioned within the lawsuit that Qatari officers both “knew or recklessly ignored” the truth that the Islamic State terrorists they have been allegedly funding would goal Americans for kidnapping, torture and homicide.
Foreign nations and authorities officers can’t usually be sued in U.S. courts. But the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act permits terror victims to hunt damages from non-public entities linked to governments. The Sotloff swimsuit’s defendants, Qatar Charity and Qatar National Bank, are alleged to have knowingly facilitated funding to terror teams.
Specifically, the lawsuit says the charity and the financial institution supplied $800,000 to Fadel al Salim, which he allegedly smuggled into Syria from Turkey after which used to kind a “brigade of Islamic State fighters” and change into a “sharia decide.” The Sotloff grievance mentioned al Salim signed the “Legal Retribution Verdict” ordering the deaths of Foley and Sotloff in addition to led a convoy that transported the pair from one jail in Raqqa, Syria, to the city the place they have been slain.
Representatives for Qatar Charity and Qatar National Bank didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark.
The present whereabouts of al Salim are unknown. But U.S. prosecutors have made important progress in separate prison instances in opposition to two of the British Islamic State militants answerable for the killings of Sotloff and three different American captives.
Alexanda Kotey was sentenced just lately in federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, to life in jail. El Shafee Elsheikh, who was convicted in a jury trial final month, additionally faces life imprisonment when he’s sentenced in August.
Kotey and Elsheikh have been a part of a cell of British militants identified by their captors as “the Beatles” due to their accents. They have been captured in Syria in 2018 and transferred to the U.S. in 2020 for prison prosecution after Attorney General William Barr agreed to take the dying penalty off the desk.
Another militant, Mohammed Emwazi — referred to as “Jihadi John” — was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015 and a fourth was arrested in Turkey.
Sotloff, Foley and Peter Kassig have been beheaded as a part of propaganda movies launched by IS in 2014 whereas Kayla Mueller was tortured and raped by Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi earlier than she was killed. The hostage-taking additionally resulted within the killings of British and Japanese captives, officers have mentioned.
“We are endlessly damaged by the lack of our beloved son, and outlined because the folks from a horror film,” mom Shirley Sotloff mentioned on the Kotey sentencing listening to.
The Sotloff lawsuit, filed in West Palm Beach, Florida, doesn’t disclose how info within the grievance was obtained. But it does embody a high-level of element, reminiscent of a particular checking account quantity, passages from a handwritten assertion acknowledging funds and Islamic State judicial data.
The lawsuit additionally alleges Qatari royal relations and authorities officers labored with the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish intelligence to fund extremist teams in Syria with the goal of undermining the Assad regime.
Similar allegations of outstanding Qataris funding terrorist teams have been made in two ongoing lawsuits filed in London on behalf of Syrian refugees.
Ben Emmerson, a London-based lawyer representing the refugees, mentioned there’s clear proof American officers have chosen to show a blind eye to Qatar’s terror financing in Syria as a result of the U.S. wants Qatar’s assist in different areas.
“This is realpolitik in motion,” he mentioned.
One of the London lawsuits alleges that Qatar National Bank board members made hawala funds — a casual cash switch system — on to Al Nusra, al-Qaeda’s department in Syria. Those embody transfers, in response to the lawsuit, by the emir’s half-brother, Khalid Al Thani. He beforehand served on the board of Qatar National Bank.
It’s unclear if these funds are a part of the grand jury investigation involving Khalid Al-Thani, which is at the very least a 12 months outdated. Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York declined to remark. (AP) IND IND
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