The US Treasury Department announced today that Muhammad Hadi al-`Anizi, who is “based in Kuwait,” has been designated as a terrorist. Al-`Anizi, a “terrorist facilitator and financier,” has “provided extensive material and financial support” for both al Qaeda and its arm in Syria.
Today’s designation is the latest in a series targeting al Qaeda’s support network inside Kuwait.
Treasury traces Al-`Anizi’s career back at least a decade to 2007, as he allegedly supported al Qaeda at the time.
Much of his work since 2014 has been in service of al Qaeda’s Syrian branch, formerly known as Al Nusrah Front. He has “obtained passports for an AQ associate in Syria, provided medical supplies to an injured Syria-based AQ associate,” and “worked with an [Al Nusrah] associate to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to [Al Nusrah] members in Syria.” He has also “solicited donations” for Al Nusrah members, sending “approximately $20,000” to one of them in late 2015.
At some point in 2014, al-`Anizi “was appointed as AQ’s representative in Syria by AQ senior leadership.”
Treasury ties al-`Anizi to two other designated al Qaeda supporters, one of whom is his brother, Abdullah al-`Anizi. “Prior to 2014,” Treasury says, al-`Anizi provided his sibling with “financial support” that was used “to fund terrorist operations.”
In 2015, Al-`Anizi “sought assistance from AQ financier” Sa’d al-Ka’bi “to facilitate the travel of AQ-associated individuals.” Al-Ka’bi has organized fundraising efforts for Al Nusrah in Qatar.
“From raising funds to facilitating the travel of terrorists, al-`Anizi is responsible for providing key financial and logistical support to Al Nusrah Front and Al Qaeda,” John E. Smith, the director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), said in a statement. “The Treasury Department will continue to aggressively target Al Nusrah Front’s and Al Qaeda’s financial structures to further disrupt their ability to conduct terrorist attacks.”
Although Treasury refers to al Qaeda’s arm in Syria as Al Nusrah Front, the group has actually changed names twice since July 2016. Al Nusrah was first rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Then, in January of this year, JFS merged with four other organizations to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS). Other factions inside Syria have reportedly joined HTS since then.
Al Qaeda’s fundraising and facilitation network in Kuwait
The US Treasury Department has repeatedly targeted al Qaeda’s facilitators and fundraisers inside Kuwait. Al Qaeda’s operations in Kuwait are part of a network that stretches throughout the Gulf, Syria, Turkey, and into South Asia. The Kuwaiti al Qaeda supporters are tied to their counterparts inside Iran and other countries, according to Treasury.
A timeline of relevant designations is included below. The designations highlight the degree to which al Qaeda maintains a cohesive network, as the jihadists often work on behalf of al Qaeda’s senior leadership and the group’s regional branches, which operate in several countries. Several jihadists in Kuwait identified by Treasury have assisted al Qaeda’s guerrilla army in Syria.
Jul. 28, 2011: Treasury exposed the Iranian government’s formerly “secret deal” with al Qaeda. Their “agreement” allows al Qaeda to operate its “core pipeline” inside Iran. This facilitation hub is used for moving “money, facilitators and operatives from across the Middle East to South Asia.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury targets Iran’s ‘secret deal’ with al Qaeda.]
Yasin al Suri headed al Qaeda’s network inside Iran at the time and he relied on facilitators living in other Gulf countries to support his operations. One of them, ‘Ali Hasan ‘Ali al-’Ajmi, was Suri’s “Kuwait-based associate.”
Al-’Ajmi “provides financial and facilitation support to al Qaeda, [al Qaeda in Iraq] and the Taliban,” Treasury said. Al-‘Ajmi “has collected money from individuals in Gulf countries and provided these funds to AQI facilitators as well as to the Taliban” and “has also supported al Qaeda by facilitating travel for individuals associated with the group so that they could take part in fighting in Afghanistan.”
Oct. 18, 2012: Yasin al Suri was temporarily sidelined as the head of al Qaeda’s Iran-based operation after the US government shed light on his activities. In Oct. 2012, Treasury identified his replacement as Muhsin al Fadhli, a Kuwaiti al Qaeda veteran. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury ‘further exposes’ Iran-al Qaeda relationship.]
Fadhli’s thick dossier included ties to several plots, including the Oct. 8, 2002 attack on US Marines on Kuwait’s Faylaka Island. From Iran, Fadhli and his men were “providing funding for al Qaeda activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” according to Treasury. They were also moving “fighters and money through Turkey to support al Qaeda-affiliated elements in Syria.”
The US government put a spotlight on the role played by donors in Kuwait. Treasury said Fadhli was “leveraging his extensive network of Kuwaiti jihadist donors to send money to Syria via Turkey.”
Muhsin al Fadhli was killed in a US airstrike in Syria in July 2015.
Aug. 6, 2014: Treasury designated three jihadists, two of whom supported Al Nusrah Front and the third backed the Islamic State. Treasury also argued that the Kuwaiti government needed to do more to disrupt al Qaeda’s network. “We and our international partners, including the Kuwaiti government, need to act more urgently and effectively to disrupt these terrorist financing efforts,” David S. Cohen, then Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said.
Shafi Sultan Mohammed al-Ajmi “operates regular social media campaigns seeking donations for Syrian fighters and is one of the most active Kuwaiti fundraisers for” Al Nusrah. In July 2014, according to Treasury, al-Ajmi “publicly admitted that he collected money under the auspices of charity and delivered the funds in person to” Al Nusrah. He has “also acknowledged purchasing and smuggling arms on behalf of” al Qaeda’s arm in Syria.
Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Shabib al-‘Ajmi, another Kuwaiti, “serves as a funnel for financial donations to [Al Nusrah] facilitators in Syria, traveling regularly from Kuwait to Syria to engage in financial activity on behalf of [Al Nusrah] and deliver money to the group.” He “agreed to provide financial support to [Al Nusrah] in exchange for installing Kuwaitis in” the group’s “leadership positions.” Treasury noted that he also “offered” Al Nusrah “money to lead a battlefield campaign in Homs, Syria” in Jan. 2014.
The third jihadist designated on Aug. 6, 2014, ‘Abd al-Rahman Khalaf ‘Ubayd Juday’ al-‘Anizi, has supported both al Qaeda and the Islamic State. He has worked with Islamic State officials to transfer “funds from Kuwait to Syria” and also secured funds “to pay for the travel of foreign fighters moving from Syria to Iraq.” Al-‘Anizi “worked to smuggle several foreign fighters from Kuwait to Afghanistan, likely to join al Qaeda and was involved in extremist facilitation activities with Iran-based al Qaeda facilitators, including the movement of extremists to Afghanistan via Iran.”
Aug. 22, 2014: A Kuwaiti national named Hamid Hamad Hamid al-‘Ali was designated. Al-‘Ali has “referred to himself” as an “al Qaeda commando” and has raised funds for both Al Nusrah and its parent al Qaeda, Treasury reported.
Al-‘Ali “has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help” 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.”
In addition, Hamid Hamad Hamid al-‘Ali has reported ties to Jund al Aqsa, which operated as a front group for al Qaeda until its dissolution and after some factions within the organization gravitated to the Islamic State.
Sept. 24, 2014: Treasury identified six al Qaeda facilitators and financiers, two of whom were based in Kuwait at the time. ‘Abd al Aziz Aday Zimin al-Fadhil was described as a “Kuwait-based facilitator who provides financial services” for Al Nusrah Front and also “facilitates travel for individuals seeking to join the terrorist organization.” Al Nusrah was not the only part of al Qaeda he supported, according to Treasury, as Fadhil has transferred funds to Yemen “in support of AQAP” (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula).
Hamad Awad Dahi Sarhan al-Shammari is a “Kuwait-based facilitator who provides financial services to or in support of al Qaeda by transferring money to support extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Treasury said. Shammari has coordinated the transfer of funds for al Qaeda and Al Nusrah, and has also facilitated travel for both. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury designations target al Qaeda’s international fundraising and facilitation network.]
Aug. 5, 2015: Treasury designated Sa’d bin Sa’d Muhammad Shariyan al-Ka’bi, “a Qatari financier of” Al Nusrah Front. Al-Ka’bi “set up donation campaigns in Qatar to aid with fundraising in response to a request from an [Al Nusrah] associate for money to purchase both weapons and food.” He also acted as “as an intermediary for collecting a ransom for a hostage being held by” Al Nusrah and “worked to facilitate a ransom payment in exchange for the release of a hostage.”
Although al-Ka’bi’s operations were based in Qatar, Treasury noted that he “worked closely” with the aforementioned Hamid Hamad Hamid al-‘Ali, a Kuwaiti fundraiser for Al Nusrah. And as today’s action makes clear, Al-Ka’bi works with Muhammad Hadi al-`Anizi as well.
May 19, 2016: Treasury designated six individuals, two of whom are Kuwait-based supporters of al Qaeda.
Treasury said that Abdullah Hadi ‘Abd al-Rahman Fayhan Sharban al-‘Anizi and Abd al-Muhsin Zabin Mutib Naif al-Mutayri had both provided assistance to Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian arm. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Treasury sanctions al Qaeda, Islamic State ‘financiers and facilitators’.]
Al-‘Anizi’s role hasn’t been limited to al Qaeda’s operations in Syria, as he has also allegedly served al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He was even a “communications conduit for al Qaeda senior leadership.” In addition to sending money to al Qaeda in South Asia and the group’s arm in Syria, Al-‘Anizi has also “made plans to solicit funds from donors to help move al Qaeda extremists from Pakistan to Syria.”
Al-Mutayri has likewise funneled funds to Al Nusrah, “collecting money for the group from other Gulf-based facilitators” and using “charities to raise money for the terrorist organization.” Al-Mutayri has assisted “individuals” seeking to travel from abroad to Syria, where they can join Al Nusrah’s ranks.
*Note: The spellings of Al Qaeda and Al Nusrah Front were changed to make them consistent, including in quotes reproduced in this article
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.