Al Rahmah Welfare Organization’s website features this photo and others of a man who appears to be James McLintock with “orphans” and others.
At first blush, Al Rahmah Welfare Organization (RWO) is a charity that serves orphans, widows and the downtrodden in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and elsewhere. The group’s web page and social media sites are filled with projects for prospective donors to fund: water wells, an “Educators [sic] Teaching Course” for would-be instructors at one of RWO’s Koran schools, emergency relief for refugees, the building of orphanages and mosques, as well as “many more humanitarian works.”
But according to the US Treasury Department, RWO serves another purpose. In an announcement made yesterday, Treasury described RWO as “a front organization for al Qaeda that has been used to finance al Qaeda, the Taliban, [Lashkar-e-Taiba], and other Afghan extremist groups.”
In conjunction with the government of Saudi Arabia, Treasury has designated RWO as a terrorist sponsoring organization. James Alexander McLintock, the organization’s “president, CEO, and chairman,” has also been added to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists.
McLintock’s jihadist career began more than two decades ago, according to numerous published sources. The Scottish-born jihadist first garnered significant press when he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in December 2001. According to the Guardian (UK), McLintock was detained after he “he crossed the border near the al Qaeda camp at Tora Bora, in eastern Afghanistan.”
As an American-led coalition pummeled Taliban and al Qaeda forces in late 2001, Osama bin Laden ordered his men to retreat to the Tora Bora Mountains for what could have been their last stand. Instead, bin Laden and a number of al Qaeda leaders slipped away.
McLintock was among the numerous jihadists detained. But he was released by the Pakistanis.
In 2004, The Scotsman reported that McLintock first joined the jihad in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and went off to fight again in Bosnia in 1994. McLintock conceded to the press that he had received training in Afghanistan, but he claimed that he did not attend one of bin Laden’s camps.
Some of the media’s coverage following McLintock’s release from Pakistani custody was sympathetic, portraying him as a legitimate charity worker and implying that he had been wrongly detained in the first place. The Scotsman told readers that McLintock first “appeared to personify the West’s worst nightmare: an educated young man who found Islam and turned his back on his own culture to fight for one of the most oppressive regimes on earth,” but it subsequently “emerged that he had been working for a charity.” The Evening Telegraph (UK) reported: “Although it was initially suggested he was a radical Islamist, it later emerged he had been working for a charity in the region.”
According to Treasury, however, McLintock’s charitable endeavors in more recent years have really been a cover for his fundraising on behalf of al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and “other Afghan extremist groups.” Treasury alleges he “has also personally supported multiple terrorist groups.”
Charity work a “false guise”
The US government says that McLintock, who goes by a number of aliases and is commonly known as Yaqub Mansoor, has used “the false guise of helping orphans” to support al Qaeda. He has gone so far as to recruit “Afghan insurgents to obtain photos of children, Afghan identity documents, and cell phone numbers to create falsified dossiers used to obtain donations for RWO.”
Some of the money McLintock has raised was used “to finance the Taliban’s militant activities in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.” Kunar is a hotbed of activity for al Qaeda and its allies. One of al Qaeda’s most senior commanders in Afghanistan, Faruq al Qahtani, has long operated there.
According to Treasury, McLintock has “provided funding” for Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al Peshawari, also known as Shaykh Aminullah, who runs the Ganj Madrassa in Pakistan. Aminullah was designated as a terrorist in 2009 and the Ganj Madrassa was added to the US terrorism list in 2013. Treasury described Ganj as “a terrorist training center” at the time. [See LWJ report, Treasury designates al Qaeda leader, madrassa.]
Treasury’s analysts have concluded “that some of the money McLintock gave to Aminullah probably was used for the activities of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and” Lashkar-e-Taiba. The Ganj Madrassa is known to support all three organizations.
The US government accuses McLintock of raising money to pay for the Taiban’s operations. In 2013, Treasury says, “McLintock regularly met with Taliban and other militant commanders for the purpose of financing their attacks against Afghan government targets in Kunar Province.” McLintock has “financed Taliban militants in Afghanistan and prepared madrassa students for travel to fight in Afghanistan.”
McLintock and RWO have allegedly solicited donations “from British donors who were not aware of the NGOs’ Taliban ties,” collecting “approximately $180,000 from donors in the United Kingdom.” RWO has “also received financial support from charities in the Persian Gulf and the United Kingdom.”
The funds have been used, in part, to provide “financial support” to Lashkar-e-Taiba. The money has been funneled “through other charities” that McLintock “controlled in Pakistan and other countries.”
“As of June 2013,” according to Treasury, McLintock and “a smuggler in Kunar Province who was considered a deputy [Lashkar-e-Taiba] commander” reportedly “smuggled cash to insurgents in Afghanistan and transferred materials for the construction of improvised explosive devices between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” McLintock “also used RWO as a front for both financing the activities of Afghan Salafist insurgents and helping to train them in the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices.”
Website and social media
A simple Google search returns the website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed for what appears to be McLintock’s RWO. In addition, a Facebook page and two Twitter feeds use a handle that is the same as McLintock’s Islamic name, Yaqub. These web pages include photos of Yaqub. The images seem to match known photos of McLintock. Some of the photos show Yaqub posing with children who are purportedly orphans.
The address listed on RWO’s website also matches the address given by the Treasury Department. Both sources say that one of RWO’s main offices is located on Street 40 in Sector F-10/4 of Islamabad, Pakistan.
A screen shot taken from the RWO’s website can be seen on the right. The contact information indicates that the supposed charity’s office can be found across the street from the Pakistan Insitute of Medical Sciences.
Several partner charities are listed on RWO’s website: the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO), the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan Foundation, King Abdullah’s Relief Campaign for [the] Pakistani People, Welfare and Development Organization (WDO), World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), and “Qatar Charity.” The site also indicates that RWO has collaborated with a group called 1st Ethical in the UK.
The Long War Journal cannot independently verify that RWO has worked with these charitable organizations. And it is possible that even if these other charities did cooperate with RWO at some level they did not know about RWO’s putative jihadist role.
[Update: On Apr. 5, 1st Ethical emailed a statement to The Long War Journal saying that it has “checked” its records and can “confirm” that the RWO and McLintock are “not currently supported by 1st Ethical.” The statement continued: “Furthermore, we have checked our records from April 2011, which covers the dates mentioned above, and can confirm we have not donated to RWO in this timeframe.” The dates referenced are those mentioned in the Treasury Department’s designation announcement.]
Some of the charities listed on RWO’s website, under a section entitled “External Relations,” have backers with deep pockets. For example, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan Foundation is named after its founder, the President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
RWO’s website notes that King Abdullah’s Relief Campaign for the Pakistani People (KARCPP) was set up by Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz “to establish an organization for carrying out relief, rescue and rehabilitation activities in the worst flood-torn areas of Pakistan.”
RWO has posted two letters dealing with the aid it supposedly received from KARCPP and then distributed. The first is dated Aug. 29, 2012 and is signed by “Yaqoob Mansoor al Rashidi,” which the Treasury Department identified as one of McLintock’s aliases.
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank ‘King Abdullah Relief Campaign for Pakistani People’ for allowing Al Rahmah Welfare Organization (RWO) to help the people of Pakistan in the blessed month of Ramadan,” Yaqoob Mansoor began the letter. “KARCPP had a very generous Iftari programme all over Pakistan. RWO collaborated in this blessed effort distributing iftari food packages in three areas of Pakistan.”
Yaqoob Mansoor listed the three areas where food packages were distributed: Pakistan’s Swat district, Batkhela in the Malakand agency, and the Kurram agency. “We would like to thank them [KARCPP] for allowing us to collaborate in their efforts and we hope that we can continue to do so in the future,” Yaqoob Mansoor concluded.
A second letter, dated July 29, 2013, is a “Receiving Docket” addressed to “Muhammad Tayyab, Deputy Director.” Its author, named as Zafar Jahangir, wrote that RWO was “honored for having had the opportunity to be an implementing partner with KARCPP, delivering food aid for the benefit of the Pakistani People.” Jahangir confirmed the receipt of “bulk food items” with a total weight of 148 tons. Separate pictures posted RWO’s website purportedly show these food packages being handed out.
The two Twitter feeds that appear to be McLintock’s contain pictures of the Scotsman visiting with men identified as prominent Pakistani politicians. On a Facebook page that is believed to be McLintock’s, the longtime jihadi posted a message remembering Hamid Gul, the former Pakistani spy chief who passed away in August 2015. Gul’s ties to jihadist organizations are well-known. McLintock described Gul as “a good man and mujahid.”
“It was always refreshing and uplifting to meet him [Gul],” McLintock wrote. “To hear a man of his stature speaking from his heart about Islam and Jihad strengthened your faith in the Ummah. I had the opportunity to interview him for my newswire in 2003 and we had been friends since. Gen Hamid Gul always put Islam and Jihad before nationalism.”
Although Treasury does not mention RWO’s operations in Syria, McLintock regularly posts photos of his organization’s supposed good works in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces.
McLintock’s social media sites also advertised a campaign, in conjunction with a group called Aid2Syria, to collect donations for the war-torn country. One such banner can be seen on the right. Videos and other images have also documented RWO’s purported contributions to widows and other relief efforts.
Leaked threat assessment authored by Joint Task Force – Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO)
McLintock is mentioned in a leaked JTF-GTMO threat assessment that was prepared for Shaker Aamer, who was held as a detainee in Cuba from Februry 2002 until October 2015, when he was transferred to Britain. McLintock praised Aamer’s release on one of his many social media accounts last year.
JTF-GTMO found that Aamer met with another former Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg, in Afghanistan in 1998. Aamer and Begg first met at the “white mosque,” before traveling “to the Arab guesthouse in Jalalabad” and then on to “Abu Abdallah al Scotlandi’s residence in Kabul.”
Abu Abdallah al Scotlandi is yet another one of McLintock’s known aliases.
JTF-GTMO noted that McLintock “fought in Bosnia and has close ties to” Ibn Shaykh al Libi, a veteran jihadist who was “the primary trainer and leader of Khaldan training camp” in Afghanistan and was appointed by Osama bin Laden to lead al Qaeda’s forces in Tora Bora.
Note: The spelling of al Qaeda has been made consistent throughout this article.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.