US suspected Saudi envoy of terror link: WikiLeaks

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 15:09

Manila: The United States suspected a Saudi
Arabian ambassador to the Philippines of potential involvement in funding terrorists, according to US diplomatic cables
released by WikiLeaks this week.

A security aide of then-US president George W Bush raised
concerns over Muhammad Amin Waly in a private meeting with
Prince Saud al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, in Jeddah
in 2007, the secret cable showed.

"In a following private meeting... (Assistant to the
President for Homeland Security and Terrorism) Townsend raised
US concerns with the potential involvement of the Saudi
ambassador... in terrorism facilitation," it said.

Francis Townsend cited Waly`s intervention to secure the
release of two members of an Islamic charity detained in the
Philippines, the cable showed.

The group was suspected of funnelling funds to
Al-Qaeda-linked groups based in the southern Philippines.

"Prince Saud said some of his actions may have involved
bad judgement rather than intentional support for terrorism,"
said the missive from the US embassy in Riyadh.

"Waly had been investigated, he said, and no evidence was
found regarding his involvement."

The prince also told the Bush aide that Waly`s Manila
assignment was ending in a few months and sought US government
evidence of his alleged terror links, the cable said.

Townsend pledged cooperation with the Saudi authorities
in providing evidence, the cable added.

Waly was replaced by Abdullah Al Hassan as Saudi envoy to
Manila in January this year.

The February 24, 2007, US embassy cable named the charity
suspected of terror financing in the Philippines as IIRO,
which stands for the International Islamic Relief
Organisation.

Intelligence agencies have said IIRO was set up by
Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Al-Qaeda chief
Osama bin Laden.

Khalifa was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen who
raided his home in Madagascar in January 2007, several weeks
before Townsend`s meeting with Prince Saud, and his charity is
no longer listed in Manila telephone directories.
Western intelligence agencies suspect Khalifa provided
the seed funds for the establishment in the early 1990s of the
Abu Sayyaf group, blamed for many of the Philippines`
deadliest bombings and kidnappings.

Philippine troops, receiving training and intelligence
from US Special Forces units in the south, are fighting Abu
Sayyaf militants in the Mindanao region, a hotbed of a
decades-old Muslim separatist rebellion.
Townsend`s meeting with the prince dealt mainly with the
US government`s request for the Saudi government to counter
terrorist financing.

Overall, the WikiLeaks cables singled out Saudi Arabia as
the key source of funding for radical Islamist groups
including Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hamas.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 15:09

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