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US, Gulf states impose sanctions on Daesh financiers in Turkey, Afghanistan

A Daesh sign at the entrance of the city of al-Qaim, in Iraq's western Anbar province near the Syrian border, seen on November 3, 2017 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images]
A Daesh sign at the entrance of the city of Al-Qaim, in Iraq's western Anbar province near the Syrian border, seen on November 3, 2017 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images]

The United States and the Gulf Arab states have imposed sanctions on six targets they believe are associated with the terror group Daesh and its financing, the US announced yesterday.

The Terrorist Financing Targeting Centre (TFTC) – consisting of the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman – was established in 2017 to sanction organisations, individuals and entities who finance terrorism regionally and internationally.

The sanctions that the TFTC imposed consist of four targets in Turkey and Syria and two in Afghanistan, where Daesh has established a presence in recent years despite its territorial losses in the Levant.

Entities based in Turkey and Syria which are accused of funding Daesh include Al Haram Foreign Exchange Co, Al-Khalidi Exchange, and the Tawasul Company – all money exchange companies which are already designated for sanctions by the US.

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Al Haram Foreign Exchange, based primarily in Turkey with a presence of 19 offices as well as with branches across the Middle East, is on the list due to the US Treasury Department's claims that "ISIS [Daesh] members in Syria received instruction to conduct all financial transactions with Al Haram Exchange."

Al-Khalidi Exchange is also mainly based within Turkey where it owns 18 offices. It also, however, had branches in former Daesh-held territory in Syria, with officials from the Kurdish militias in north-east Syria reportedly backing up those claims.

"Al-Khalidi was the most important financial transfer office in the region," said the Treasury Department. It "used to move money to fund ISIS-held areas," making it the "largest financial exchange office that dealt with ISIS." From its office in Sanliurfa in south-east Turkey, the department said, "Hundreds of thousands of dollars per day passed through" to Daesh.

As for Tawasul Company, it is located and based in the Syrian city of Harim in Idlib province, currently the last major stronghold of the Syrian opposition and which is dominated by militias deemed to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

The fourth sanctioned entity is a Syrian national named Abd Al-Rahman Ali Husayn Al-Ahmad Al-Rawi, who is based in Istanbul and is part of "the al-Rawi network", a group which primarily consists of Iraqis, and which was reportedly conducting smuggling operations on behalf of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1990s in order to circumvent US sanctions.

According to the Treasury Department, Al-Rawi had a "hard-currency liquidity of several million dollars in Syria" and "served as ISIS's general financial manager". He was also "responsible for external ISIS money transfers originating from and destined to foreign countries."

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Regarding the sanctions on Afghan entities, they consist of a charity named Nejaat Social Welfare Organisation, which the Treasury Department says "was used as a cover company to facilitate the transfer of funds and support the activities of ISIS-K [ISIS in Khorasan]."

The charity is said to have "collected donations on behalf of ISIS-K from individuals in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries," which was then "transferred from the Gulf to Asia – via the banking system – where an ISIS-K coordinator would collect the transferred funds." This charity, according to the Department, had offices in the Afghan cities of Kabul and Jalalabad and "distributed the funds to ISIS-K commanders."

The sixth sanctioned entity is the director of this organisation, a 50-year-old Afghan named Sayed Habib Ahmed Khan who is reportedly a resident of Kuwait.

The Gulf states' sanctioning of these six entities comes after many of them were already sanctioned by the US last year. It also comes at a time when other revelations have arisen proving that other players in the Syrian conflict have been funded by international figures and business networks through front companies, tax havens, and smuggling operations.

An example of this is the revelation earlier this week of a Syrian-Russian business network – run by President Bashar Al-Assad's own extended family members – which transferred millions to the Assad regime and helped develop its chemical weapons arsenal.

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