KUWAIT— Kuwait's justice and Islamic affairs minister has resigned, the local news service al-Rai said on Monday, after a senior U.S. official said he had called for jihad in Syria and promoted the funding of terrorism.
Last month Nayef al-Ajmi rejected the comments made in March by U.S. Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen as “groundless and baseless,” and was backed by the Cabinet.
But on Monday, Ajmi said the Gulf state's ruler had accepted his resignation, al-Rai said. Kuwaiti media reported last month that he had already offered to resign once, citing health reasons.
“I thank His Highness the Emir for accepting my resignation and for understanding my reasons,” Ajmi said according to an SMS alert from al-Rai, which gave no further details.
Attempts to reach Ajmi were unsuccessful. He has given statements to the private news group on the topic before.
Cohen said that Ajmi had “a history of promoting jihad in Syria” and that his image had been featured on fundraising posters for a financier of a Syrian rebel group linked to al-Qaida - the Nusra Front.
Kuwait has been one of the biggest humanitarian donors to Syria and Syrian refugees through the United Nations, but it has also struggled to control unofficial fundraising for opposition groups in Syria by private individuals.
Unlike some other Gulf states, U.S. ally Kuwait is against arming rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But it has tolerated fundraising in private houses, mosques and on social media.
In particular, some Kuwaiti and U.S. officials fear that campaigns that give militant Islamist groups funds to buy arms will not only fuel the violence in Syria but also stir sectarian tensions in Kuwait.
Like other Western countries, the United States considers that Assad has lost legitimacy for his violent repression of what began as a peaceful protest movement, but does not want to see him replaced by the more hardline Islamist groups that have gained ascendancy among Syria's armed rebels.
In another sign that Kuwait was reacting to concerns about Syria financing, a Kuwaiti official said a recent fundraising campaign backed by local clerics and politicians was illegal.
Munira al-Fadhli, an assistant undersecretary in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, was quoted by Monday's English language daily Kuwait Times as saying that “our department does not authorize or license individuals to collect donations. Licenses are only given to official charities”.
Fadhli said the recent “Syria Calls” campaign violated the law and legal action will be taken against its organizers.
“Syria Calls” describes itself as a “Union of Kuwaiti campaigns to support Syria” and is backed by well-known local clerics and opposition politicians. An online poster for the group does not make clear exactly what the money is for.