WASHINGTON--The Treasury Department sanctioned three Kuwait-based financiers on Wednesday for allegedly funding extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, underscoring the Obama administration's growing concern about Kuwaitis' links to al Qaeda and other terror groups.
The Treasury Department's top counterterrorism official, David Cohen, called on Kuwait to do more to combat the financing of terrorism from inside its borders.
"We and our international partners, including the Kuwaiti government, need to act more urgently and effectively to disrupt these foreign terrorist financing efforts," Mr. Cohen said.
The sanctions come after Kuwait's Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Nayef al-Ajmi resigned in May following a public charge by Mr. Cohen that he was promoting the funding of extremist groups in Syria. Mr. al-Ajmi denied the allegation and that he was resigning due to the U.S.'s concerns, according to Kuwaiti state media.
The Treasury named the three sanctioned individuals as Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi, Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Shabib al-Ajmi and Abd al-Rahman Khalaf Ubayad Juday al-Anizi.
U.S. entities are banned from conducting business with these people, and the Treasury froze any assets they held in the U.S. financial system.
Kuwait: Kuwait has stepped up controls on Islamic charities, including donations for war-ravaged Syria, as part of measures to curb funding for extremists, newspapers reported on Tuesday.
Social Affairs and Labour Minister Hind Al Sabeeh said the measures aim to “correct the course” of action of non-profit organisations, according to Al Qabasnewspaper.
The new measures “oblige charities to issue a transparency document identifying the source and final destination of the funds they have raised”, said Hind.
The measures also require charities authorised to raise funds to “obtain officially stamped receipts from the ministry, otherwise the collection of donations would be considered illegal”, she said.
“Any illegal work will not continue, and we will not tolerate it,” the minister said.
Hind’s remarks came after the Gulf nation’s cabinet discussed the issue at its weekly meeting on Monday.
The Islamic Affairs Ministry announced the same day it was suspending all types of fund-raising inside mosques, including for the “Syrian people”.
Kuwait imposed a ban on cash donations in 2004 and insisted funds be paid only through banks at the charities’ offices and not at mosques.
But Kuwait has faced US charges of insufficient controls on fund raising.
The latest US country report on terrorism said there were increased reports in 2013 of Kuwait-based private individuals funnelling charitable donations and other funds to violent extremist groups outside the country, particularly to Syria.
And the US Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, David Cohen, charged earlier this year that former Islamic affairs minister Nayef Al Ajmi had “a history of promoting jihad in Syria.”
Backed by the Kuwaiti cabinet, the minister denied the accusations. But he quit in May barely four months after taking office.