09 August 2006
Saudi charity funded Bali bombs
US intelligence agencies have confirmed links between a Saudi charity, the International Islamic Relief Organisation, and the Indonesian terror group Jemaah Islamiah.
The IIRO is also registered in NSW under the name of Shafiq Rahman Abdullah Khan - a prominent member of Sydney's Muslim community who helps distribute Saudi government funds to Islamic projects in Australia.
However, Mr Khan insisted yesterday that the IIRO was not active in Australia.
The IIRO is not listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia, but in 2004 the Federal Government warned Saudi Arabia to alert it about all Saudi funds arriving in the country after ASIO expressed concern about how they might be used.
The US Treasury last Thursday publicly identified the Indonesian and Philippines offices of the Saudi government-sanctioned IIRO as "facilitating fundraising for al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups".
It has also identified a senior IIRO official in Saudi Arabia, Abd Al Hamid Sulaiman al-Mujil, of "using his position to bankroll the al Qeda network in South-East Asia".
It describes Mr Mujil as a "major fundraiser" for JI, the group that carried out the Bali bombings of 2002 and last year.
The Australian and US governments have long been concerned about the role played by the Saudi charities in funding terrorist groups, but the US has not openly accused Saudi Arabia of funding JI until now.
American academic Zachary Abuza said it was clear that the IIRO was "complicit in killing Australians".
"Saudi charities in South-East Asia have been the primary conduit of Wahabism and other intolerant interpretations of Islam into the region," Dr Abuza told The Australian yesterday.
"In Indonesia, the IIRO funded many projects of KOMPAK, a charity that at the very least JI penetrated.
"At the time of the (first) Bali bombing, four of the 13 branch officers were JI members."
The IIRO is an enormous Saudi charity with branch offices in more than 20 countries. It is funded by the Saudi Government and by donations from wealthy private Saudi citizens.
Although it also provides genuine charity services, the IIRO is also a vehicle to spread extremist Wahabist interpretations of Islam around the globe.
The Saudi Government denies deliberately sponsoring terrorism through the IIRO, but many terror experts and some Western governments believe the Government is complicit in its funding of terror groups.
"I really cannot imagine that they do not know about this - it is a systemic problem," Dr Abuza said.
Speaking about the IIRO, US Under-Secretary for Terrorism Stuart Levey said: "It is particularly shameful when groups that hold themselves out as charitable or religious organisations defraud their donors and divert funds in support of violent terrorist groups."
There are at least two Saudi charities in Australia: the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslim World League.
Mr Khan said he registered the IIRO in NSW in 1989 at the request of the Saudi charity on the expectation that it would set up an office in Australia.
But he said the charity never followed up and so it was not active in this country.
Australian terror expert Clive Williams said the US decision to name and shame the IIRO in Indonesia and The Philippines may not achieve anything because it was almost impossible to control how the charity's funds were used