Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer testified last month before the House International Relations Committee that the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that took power in Somalia includes foreign fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and other Arab states, and has been financially supported by individuals in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Prince Sultan, Saudi deputy Prime minister and Minister of defense and aviation, denied the charges on July 5, 2006.
Islamic groups in Somalia have a long history of financial ties with Saudi organizations. The ICU is an offshoot of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiyya (AIAI), a terrorist group with strong ties to Al Qaeda and linked to the 1998 US Embassy bombings. With no surprise, most of the Courts Union’s leadership emerged from Al Itihaad, including its current Chairman, Hassan Dahir Aweys.
Aweys, who used to live in Saudi Arabia, was vice-Chairman and military commander of Al Itihaad, in charge of contacts with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and other Saudi organizations. On March 11, 2002, the Al Haramain office in Somalia has been designated by the Treasury Department on the basis that it was linked to Al Qaeda. The designation fact sheet mentioned that Al Haramain Somalia employed AIAI members and provided them with salaries through Al-Barakaat Bank (also designated on November 7, 2001 because of its activities as a principal source of funding for Osama bin Laden). The USG indicated that in late-December 2001, Al Haramain Somalia was facilitating the travel of AIAI members in Somalia by providing funds and requesting visas from the Saudi Arabian Government on the basis that they would be traveling to Saudi Arabia for reasons of religious pilgrimage. On arrival in Saudi Arabia the AlAI members planned to apply for residency permits.
According to a secret report of the Somali Reconciliation & Restoration Council dated September 29, 2001, “Islamic extremist fundamentalism in Somalia has its roots in the Middle-East Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia and Egypt” and is “mostly funded by Saudi Arabia and Gulf philanthropic Islamic organizations”. The report stresses that the Islamic fundamentalism political recruitment “gained new growth” from the implementation of Saudi academic and educational institutions specialized in Wahhabi Islamic teachings. It also points out the role of several Saudi NGOs in providing support to AIAI.
Despite the repeated Saudi promises that they will control their charities, it becomes obvious that not only they have failed to do so until now, but that the flow of money will continue to reach Islamic extremists.