ABU DHABI Ñ Saudi Arabia, under heavy U.S. pressure, has ordered the
closure of offices of a kingdom-supported charity accused of financing Al
The Al Haramain Foundation has been ordered to close offices in Africa,
Asia and Europe and Islamic sources said additional offices abroad would
be shut down by the end of the year. The sources said Al Haramain has been
ordered by Saudi authorities to drastically reduce its presence abroad amid
accusations that the foundation serves as a treasure chest for Al Qaida.
On Wednesday, the foundation announced the closure in a range of
countries as part of a reorganization of activities. The offices closed were
have been located in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya,
The directive for the closure was relayed by Saudi Islamic Affairs
Minister Saleh Al Sheik, Middle East Newsline reported. Islamic sources said Al Sheik oversaw the
appointment of a new board as well as administrators of the foundation.
Under the shakeup, many foreigners on the board were replaced by
"The decision came after a series of meetings with the new board of
directors," foundation director Aqil Al Aqil said.
The United States has asserted that Al Haramain was a leading conduit
for Saudi funding to Islamic insurgents abroad. The foundation was said to
have transferred tens of millions of dollars to Al Qaida members as well as
financed activities meant to stir unrest against non-Muslims in Africa,
Asia, Europe and the United States.
U.S. officials said Al Haramain provided a cover for Al Qaida and
aligned groups Ñ such as the Egyptian Gamiat Islamiya Ñ by hiring their
members in foreign countries. The foundation has been sponsored by leading
members of the Saudi royal family.
In March 2002, the Bush administration said Saudi Arabia agreed to block
funds of Al Haramain branches in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Somalia. Days later,
both the kingdom as well as Al Haramain denied that funds had been blocked,
an assertion later confirmed by U.S. officials.
Al Aqil said the foundation plans to focus its activities within Saudi
Arabia to meet what he termed the rising needs of Muslims in the kingdom.
But he denied that U.S. pressure was a factor in the decision to close Al
Haramain offices abroad.
"There has been not been any pressure from U.S. authorities to close the
offices," Al Aqil said. "There were some indirect reasons for the closure."