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Thursday, August 11, 2022

A Spanish cell funded al-Qaeda in Syria across three countries

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One of the jihadists arrested in Operation Warmor in 2019.

The Kutayni clan, the jihadist cell dismantled in Madrid in 2019 for allegedly funding al-Qaeda militias in Syria, has an international network of money-makers with a presence in Belgium, Italy and the United States, according to a report by the General Information Commissioner des National Turkey woven police to which EL PAÍS had access. The organization that is based in Spain for the worldwide establishment of the Sharia or Islamic law, allegedly set up an invisible financial circuit unrelated to the tax authorities to transfer the money from the Spanish capital to the terrorist militias in Idlib, a city in north-west Syria where al-Qaeda operates.

The cell is said to have entrusted the Syrian Abu Ahmed, 42 years old and resident in Madrid, with the design of its international transaction network in mid-2019. The circuit was held Hawala, the obscure system for transferring funds between individuals on a trust basis. Or, what amounts to the same thing, a network of human couriers outside the authorities that al Qaeda sometimes uses to pay for its attacks.

The financier of the jihadist network was also responsible for sending trucks for parts in containers to Syria and Yemen with the help of a partner linked to the Port of Dubai.

The financing scheme had Milan as the center of operations and used as cover a Turkish instrumental company with an account in the American bank Western Union. The money that entered the network’s funding circuit allegedly came from legitimate businesses in Spain, such as real estate or truck sellers, who acquired the vehicles in Europe to later distribute them in countries where al-Qaeda “strategic interests ” has: Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, Libya or Lebanon.

The group manipulated the billing amounts and the terms of transfers of their legal businesses in an alleged attempt to obfuscate the mechanisms of terrorist financing.

M. Kutayni, leader of an al-Qaeda faction linked to the jihadist militia Hay’at Tahrir Al Sham, believed to be the country’s largest armed group and a priority target in the war in Idlib, is said to have received the funds in Syria. And his brother Fares, one of 10 arrested in June 2019 when the jihadist financing organization was dismantled as part of Operation Warmor, is said to have acted as one of those responsible for sending money out of Spain, according to investigators.

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The group had a trusted man in Italy, Abu Galal, a citizen of Syrian origin with a history of fraud and ties to a dozen criminals. The Venice Public Prosecutor connects one of their contacts with the financing of international terrorism, the undermining of the democratic order and money laundering.

The investigations into the Kutayni clan, conducted by the National Court’s Central Court of Instruction Number 6 since 2018, have uncovered a dense web of ties between the investigators in Spain, their Italian partners and the armed insurgents in Syria. The investigations have also uncovered a network of contacts in Milan with common criminals linked to terrorism financing. According to the investigators, the jihadist network probably used them for its invisible transfers through the Hawala.

The detainees’ conversations reveal the contacts of Abu El Ezz, one of the partners “in the shadow” of the clan’s financier, with a Milan-based Syrian who “participated in hostilities against the Syrian army”.

The person responsible for the organization Hawala According to investigators, he also hired Abu Raed, a 48-year-old Syrian resident of Madrid who settled in Milan, to set up “a hawala network to work with Syria.” “The circuit would connect Spain, Belgium, Italy and use Turkey as the final bridge,” the report said.

The investigations say that the connection between the Kutayni clan and Al Qaeda is “outdated”. And they connect the personal circles of this group, which is under investigation in Spain for terrorist financing, money laundering, forged documents and illegal immigration, with Syrians like Imad Eddin Barakat, Abu Dahdah, who was sentenced by the Supreme Court to 12 years in prison in 2006 for collaborating with a terrorist organization. “Dahdah, along with Mustafa Setmarien Nasser, Abu Mussa, weaved a network to loot personal and material resources for Al Qaeda,” the National Police report said.

Another suspected jihadist arrested in Operation Warmor, G. Kalaje, engaged in “collaborational work and financing of terrorism,” according to investigations that highlight the latter’s connection to his brother-in-law. This is a member of Al Qaeda who lived in Turkey, where he acted as an intermediary between combatant training camps and European countries.

Since 2018, the Kutayni clan has allegedly stored armored and military vehicles, electric generators and spare parts in an industrial warehouse in Cedillo del Condado (Toledo, population 3,687), which they later sent to the terrorist militias in Idlib, the newspaper says.

For this purpose, the organization used the container shipping company Transitaria Ibertrans Service. The father of the manager of this Madrid company was the presumed patriarch of the group, F. Kutayni.

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Source elpais.com

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