Treasury designates 2 'key' al Qaeda financiers
Sanafi al Nasr is sitting on the far left in the picture above.
The US Treasury Department today imposed sanctions on two jihadists who act as "key financiers" for al Qaeda and the Al Nusrah Front, which is al Qaeda's official branch in Syria.
One of the two, Abdul Mohsen Abdullah Ibrahim al Sharikh, is a senior al Qaeda leader whose role in the terrorist network was first exposed by The Long War Journal in March. Sharikh is known as Sanafi al Nasr, or the "Cultivator of Victory." US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal that he leads al Qaeda's victory committee, which is responsible for al Qaeda's strategic planning and policy. [See LWJ report, Head of al Qaeda's 'Victory Committee' in Syria, for more background on Nasr and his al Qaeda role.]
Treasury does not note Nasr's role as the head of the victory committee, but it does say that he became one of the Al Nusrah Front's "top strategists" and a "senior" leader in the group after relocating to Syria in the spring of 2013. Prior to the move, Nasr served "as a key financial facilitator" for al Qaeda in Pakistan and then, temporarily, as the head of al Qaeda's network in Iran.
Along with "other al Qaeda fighters," Nasr moved to Syria just before the rivalry between the Al Nusrah Front and the Islamic State reached a boiling point. Nasr is fiercely opposed to the Islamic State, which has been disowned by al Qaeda's general command.
Treasury cites Nasr's prolific use of Twitter in its designation, noting that he "has used social media posts to demonstrate his aspiration to target Americans and US interests." His Twitter feed currently has almost 22,000 followers. Nasr has also used Twitter to provide updates on al Qaeda's leadership. In April 2013, he reported that Abu Ubaydah Abdullah al Adam, who served as al Qaeda's intelligence chief, was killed in a drone strike. And in July 2014, he tweeted that six of his "dearest comrades" were killed in an airstrike in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Nasr identified three of them as Taj al Makki, Abu Abdurahman al Kuwaiti, and Fayez Awda al Khalidi.
The Treasury Department also reveals new details about Nasr's role in al Qaeda's network in Iran. In "early 2013," Nasr served as the "chief of al Qaeda's Iran-based extremist and financial facilitation network."
Nasr held this position until Yasin al Suri, another senior al Qaeda figure, was allowed by the Iranians to resume his role in that same capacity. Al Suri was temporarily removed as the head of the Iran-based network after the US government exposed his position and offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture in 2011.
Like Nasr, another former head of al Qaeda's Iranian presence, a Kuwaiti named Muhsin al Fadhli, has also reportedly relocated to Syria.
In March, jihadists on Twitter, including Al Nusrah Front officials, falsely claimed that Nasr had been killed while fighting Bashar al Assad's forces. While Nasr was severely wounded in the fighting, he survived and made his escape from death known on his Twitter feed.
Nasr has long been included on Saudi Arabia's list of most wanted terrorists and extremists. According to US intelligence officials previously contacted by The Long War Journal, Nasr is one of Osama bin Laden's third cousins. He comes from a family of al Qaeda jihadists, and two of his brothers were once held at Guantanamo. Nasr's well-established jihadist pedigree and ties in the Gulf have contributed to his fast rise within al Qaeda's ranks.
Kuwaiti national also designated
A Kuwaiti national named Hamid Hamad Hamid al 'Ali was also designated by the Treasury Department today. Al 'Ali has "referred to himself" as an "al Qaeda commando," according to Treasury, and has raised funds for both Al Nusrah and its parent al Qaeda.
Al 'Ali "has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help" the Al Nusrah Front "purchase weapons and supplies as well as directed donors in Kuwait to send financial and material support to the terrorist organization." He has personally "traveled to Syria to deliver funds to" Al Nusrah and has also "used students in Kuwait to courier funds to the group."
In addition to his fundraising activities, al 'Ali has "facilitated the travel to Syria of individuals wishing to fight for" Al Nusrah and "provided these individuals with money to deliver to the terrorist organization."
Earlier this month, the Treasury Department designated three other financiers, at least two of whom are Kuwaiti nationals. The third has been linked to Kuwait and also works with al Qaeda's Iran-based facilitators. Kuwait grants jihadists a permissive environment in which they can raise funds.
On Aug. 6, the United Nations adopted Resolution 2170 condemning human rights abuses by extremist groups in Iraq and Syria and sanctioned six individuals associated with those groups. Both Sanafi al Nasr and Hamid Hamad Hamid al 'Ali have been added to the list of terrorists designated under the resolution.