Nayef al-Ajmi was about as Jihadist as you get. There was really no debating that.
In a sermon documented by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Al-Ajmi instructed his congregants that “our struggle with the Jews is one of faith, identity, and existence” since “the Jews of the past were evil, and the Jews of today are even worse. He proceeded to call the Jewish people “the scum of mankind… whom Allah transformed into pigs and apes”.
Even since his political appointment, Al-Ajmi has remained listed as the official spokesperson for a Kuwaiti preachers’ organization, for whom he has apparently helped raise Syria funds. When several of the most extreme battalions in Syria united during November to form an Islamic Front that rejects human legislation in favor of divine law and advocates ethnic cleansing, this association announced its “complete support for this blessed union for the mujahid factions”.
Subsequently, Nayef al-Ajmi claimed he exclusively endorsed another Kuwait-based fundraising network called the Council of Supporters for the Syrian Revolution, run by a firebrand former MP named Mohammed Hayef al-Mutairy. Mutairy is famous for seeking a fatwa to murder Syria’s ambassador to Kuwait back in 2011, and in 2013 he suggested kidnapping U.S. soldiers to trade for Kuwait’s remaining detainees at Guantanamo.
The Syrian groups funded by Mutairy’s network have included Ahrar al-Sham, which has intimately coordinated operations with Al Qaeda’s recognized affiliates in Syria. Further, it is now emerging that Ahrar’s own senior ranks are packed with longtime Qaeda operatives, including an influential founding member of Ahrar who answers to Ayman al-Zawahiri and was once Bin Laden’s trusted courier. A recent feature on the Syria conflict by Politico not only described Ahrar al-Sham as “ideologically close to Al Qaeda” but also “heavily financed by Kuwaiti clerics and sheikhs”.
Earlier this month, the US Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen, belatedly challenged Al-Ajmi’s new role in the Kuwati government.
While we congratulate the Kuwaiti Government on steps it has taken recently to enhance its capacity to combat illicit finance, such as enacting a new law outlawing terrorist financing, we urge the Kuwaitis to do more to effectively stem the flow of money to terrorists.
There have been some encouraging conversations recently, but the appointment of Nayef al-Ajmi to be both Minister of Justice and Minister of Islamic Endowments (Awqaf) and Islamic Affairs is a step in the wrong direction. Al-Ajmi has a history of promoting jihad in Syria. In fact, his image has been featured on fundraising posters for a prominent al-Nusrah Front financier. And following his appointment, the Ministry of Awqaf announced it would allow non-profit organizations and charities to collect donations for the Syrian people at Kuwaiti mosques, a measure we believe can be easily exploited by Kuwait-based terrorist fundraisers.
Cohen further discussed the role of online terrorist fundraising.
Constraining this flow of funds is particularly challenging in an era when social media allows anyone with an Internet connection to set himself up as an international terrorist financier. We see this activity most prominently in Kuwait and Qatar, where fundraisers aggressively solicit donations online from supporters in other countries, notably Saudi Arabia, which have banned unauthorized fundraising campaigns for Syria.Private fundraising networks in Qatar, for instance, increasingly rely upon social media to solicit donations for terrorists and to communicate with both donors and recipient radicals on the battlefield. This method has become so lucrative, and Qatar has become such a permissive terrorist financing environment, that several major Qatar-based fundraisers act as local representatives for larger terrorist fundraising networks that are based in Kuwait.
There should be no doubt that while we remain committed to working with countries such as Kuwait and Qatar to confront ongoing terrorist financing, the U.S. will not hesitate to act on its own to disrupt these terrorist financing networks. The long list of designated al-Qa’ida-linked fundraisers, financiers, and functionaries is proof of that.
Now there has been a response out of Kuwait.
“The undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen has recently said that the appointment of Nayef Al Ajmi to be both Minister of Justice and Minister of Islamic Endowments and Islamic Affairs was a step in the wrong direction,” MP Nabeel Al Fadhl said. “Cohen added that the minister has a history of promoting terrorism. We expect the minister to either hand in his resignation immediately or reject the accusations and sue the US official. Lapsing into silence will only fuel speculation and doubt,” the lawmaker said.
The more official responses have been a bit muddled.
Minister Al-Ajmi had earlier denied these allegations, describing them as ‘utter lies’, and had promised to respond in detail later. According to Scope News website, the minister eventually admitted implicitly that, “It is my history and I am proud of it … helping the Yemeni and Syrian poor, displaced, orphans and widows, and sheltering the refugees”.
The website has indicated possibility of his resignation despite the fact that he is currently out of the country for medical reasons. Meanwhile, top sources in the country affirmed, “Kuwait has not yet received any official information regarding the statement issued by Cohen”.
They revealed that as soon as this information is confirmed, discussions with the American side regarding the matter will be initiated.
Which means that the American side will be told to shut up. There’s little doubt that Kuwait knew what it was doing.