Monday, September 15, 2014

15-Sep-14: Like a horse and carriage: Qatari money and terror

Back in 2008, Basher and Asma al-Assad hosted
Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar and his wife (centre) in Syria
[Image Source]
This past Thursday, the IDF Spokesperson's Office announced that 45 members of a UN border monitoring unit, all of them from the Fijian military forces, abducted by terrorists of the al-Nusra Front on the Syrian side of Israel's Golan Heights frontier, had been released and had crossed the border and arrived safely in Israel.

According to a New Zealand source, "the Fijian soldiers were seized on August 28 after their UN commander told them to surrender rather than fight. 40 Filipino soldiers ignored the order and fought their way to freedom... A UN spokesman said in New York on Thursday no ransom had been requested for the Fijian peacekeepers and none was paid. He said the UN mission in the region remained viable and would continue to fulfil its mandate."

But it now appears, on the basis of a report carried by the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper (published daily in Arabic from London) that the freedom of the Fijians was in fact purchased with a $20 million ransom paid by Qatar.
Syrian opposition forces said on Saturday that Qatar had paid militants from the Nusra front $20 million ransom for their return. This comes a day after Qatar's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that it had brokered the release of 45 Fijian U.N. peacekeepers "at the request of the government of Fiji." "The efforts of the State of Qatar led to the successful release of the Fijian soldiers... who had been held for two weeks," the Qatari foreign ministry said in a statement. The reports of a ransom fly in the face of earlier statements from the UN that no concessions had been made to secure the peacekeepers' release. [Source]
A Financial Times analysis in May 2013 ["How Qatar seized control of the Syrian revolution"] observed that:
few appear to be aware of the vast sums that Qatar has contributed – estimated by rebel and diplomatic sources to be about $1bn, but put by people close to the Qatar government at as much as $3bn. However, a perception is taking root among growing numbers of Syrians that Qatar is using its financial muscle to develop networks of loyalty among rebels and set the stage for influence in a post-Assad era. “Qatar has a lot of money and buys everything with money, and it can put its fingerprints on it,” says a rebel officer from the northern province of Idlib interviewed by the FT... Qatar’s ruling family, the al-Thanis, have no ideological or religious affinity with the Islamists – they are simply not choosy about the beliefs held by useful friends... Allegations that the Qataris have – directly or indirectly – helped Jabhat al-Nusrah have not gone away. 
In Fiji, they are reporting that
Apart from the UN talks were held with the governments of Qatar, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to secure their release. [Fiji Times, September 13, 2014]
The al-Nusra Front or Jabhat al-Nusra and sometimes called Tanzim Qa'edat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Sham, is a branch of al-Qaeda operating in Syria and Lebanon that announced its creation on January 23, 2012, during the Syrian Civil War.

Since then, it has been described as "the most aggressive and successful" of the "rebel forces" in Syria. Others give it different names: Al-Nusra is designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and Turkey.

It's now probably one of the wealthier of the terrorist groups operating in the Middle East. So now they will probably stop doing abductions and focus on gentler deeds. Right?

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