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Terrorism

US sanctions 5 Turkey-based al-Qaeda facilitators

By Diyaruna and AFP

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People walk on the Bosporus in Istanbul, Turkey, on September 13. [Ozan Kose/AFP]

WASHINGTON -- The US Treasury placed five Turkey-based al-Qaeda facilitators and financiers on its sanctions blacklist Thursday (September 16), as it focuses its attention on the extremist group's network in the country.

The United States has designated al-Qaeda a terror organisation.

Egypt-born Turkish lawyer Majdi Salim and another Egyptian citizen, Muhammad Nasr al-Din al-Ghazlani, acted as financial couriers for al-Qaeda in Turkey, the US Treasury said.

The Treasury described Salim as "one of the primary facilitators of a range of al-Qaeda activities in Turkey, including acting as a financial courier within the al-Qaeda network in Turkey".

He is the former "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having taken over for current al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, it said.

Al-Ghazlani had used cash transfers to support al-Qaeda, the Treasury said.

The group "used Turkey-based financial couriers... to facilitate funds transfers on behalf of al-Qaeda, including providing money to the families of imprisoned al-Qaeda members", the Treasury said in a statement.

Al-Qaeda network

Three Turkish nationals, Cebrail Guzel, Soner Gurleyen and Nurettin Muslihan, were accused of having helped facilitate al-Qaeda's network across Turkey and into neighbouring Syria.

Muslihan maintained contact with al-Qaeda's senior leadership, and worked to establish direct communications with al-Qaeda extremists, the Treasury said.

These included al-Qaeda senior leader Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman, also known as Abu Khayr al-Masri, who operated in Syria and was killed in a US drone strike in that country in February 2017.

Guzel worked with Muslihan in his efforts to support al-Qaeda, and helped facilitate the network's relationship with Abd al-Rahman in Syria.

Gurleyen provided another al-Qaeda violent extremist with assistance in preparation for the latter's travel.

'A vigilant eye' on networks

Thursday's announcement followed a similar sanctions designation in late July of two Turkey-based "financial facilitators" of al-Qaeda and Tahrir al-Sham, an extremist alliance based in Syria with ties to al-Qaeda.

"We will continue working with our foreign partners, including Turkey, to expose and disrupt al-Qaeda's financial support networks," said Andre Gacki, director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which announced the sanctions.

"The United States remains committed to combatting al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world, including by countering their financing," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a Thursday statement.

"We will keep a vigilant eye on these networks to deter them from abusing the international financial system to generate revenues for terrorist operations."

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