The United States and Saudi Arabia have asked the United Nations to freeze the assets of four international branches of a Saudi charity with links to terrorists. The two governments have accused the al-Haramain Charity's offices in Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and Tanzania of supporting terrorism.
U.S. Treasury officials say the four branches of the Saudi charity organization have ignored past orders to cease their operations. They have been accused by U.S. and Saudi officials of funding terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda. Both governments have reported the charity offices to the United Nations Sanctions Committee to be added to its list of suspected terrorist financiers.
The State Department's coordinator for counter-terrorism Cofer Black told reporters Thursday the action is the latest step in efforts to curb funding for terrorist operations. The government will freeze any assets in the United States that belong to the four al-Haramain branches.
"This is the business of counter terrorism," he said. "We have to be very exacting and specific. We must make sure the money is intended for good works that help individuals continues in a way that maximizes the security of individuals."
Several Saudi charities have come under investigation because of the lack of accountability for the flow of funds to Islamic groups around the world, some of which are suspected of terrorist links. Two other branches of the al-Haramain charity in Bosnia and Somalia were targeted last March.
U.S. Treasury official Juan Zarate insists Washington's war on terrorism is not singling out Islamic charities.
"The U.S. government is not targeting Islamic charities," he said. "It's not targeting Islamic organizations. What we're doing is looking for information, building cases with respect to those that are supporting terrorist organizations."
Saudi foreign affairs advisor Adel al-Jubeir says his government is cooperating with the crackdown and ordered the charity to close its overseas branches last year. Strict regulations for sending money out of Saudi Arabia have been imposed and charity collection boxes have been removed from more than 50,000 mosques run by the government inside the country. Saudi-based charities are now subject to audits as well.
"When the al-Haramain in Saudi Arabia says it has cut off the branches but the individuals in those branches continue to operate or reincorporate using the same name, they have no control over them," said Adel al-Jubeir. "We know that no money can go from Saudi Arabia to outside Saudi Arabia. It is really up to the countries in which these branches operate to shut them down because they have the legal mandate to do so."
Saudi Arabia has stepped up its cooperation with the U.S. counter-terrorism campaign after a series of deadly suicide bombings in Riyadh brought the war on terrorism home to Saudi soil.