British bomb plot spotlights charities
Islamic groups in Britain and Pakistan are suspected of helping fund last week's foiled airline bombings.
For months they dispensed earthquake aid with vigor and dedication. Locals and government officials – even Pakistan's president – praised their work. Analysts said they were more effective at earthquake relief than the state.Skip to next paragraph
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But now Jamat-ud-Dawa, a charity banned by the US State Department in April, is at the center of a firestorm suggesting they were doing more than lending a needed hand. The group's leader has been placed under house arrest, and investigators in England and Pakistan are probing whether the group provided financial and logistical support to the London terror suspects, raising fears that it has an appetite for militancy on the international stage.
The New York Times reported that Jamat-ud-Dawa's offices in England were said to be responsible for channeling funds for the plot, which were raised under the guise of earthquake aid. England's Sunday Mirror reported that three Britons arrested in Pakistan received substantial money transfers from several charities, totaling millions of dollars, into at least three bank accounts in Kashmir.
With news of Jamat-ud-Dawa's involvement circulating widely, analysts in Pakistan cautioned against jumping to any conclusions, saying the group's history and recent evolution suggest it has neither the political will, nor the capacity, to be involved in an international terrorist plot.
"Jamat-ud-Dawa has realized that militancy cannot be an agenda in the long run. They have to divest themselves. That is why they have created schools and health clinics. So they're working like Hamas, to spread their religio-political influence," says Ershad Mahmud, an expert on Kashmir at the Institute for Policy Studies, an Islamabad think tank. "I don't think they're so naive as to put their whole infrastructure at risk."
However, Islamic charities are typically poorly supervised, and there are numerous instances of well-known charities in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia doing good works while simultaneously funneling money to militants. Militant organizations have frequently used charitable activities to build sympathy and recruit new members around the world.
Intelligence officials in Pakistan say there is no direct evidence of Jamat-ud-Dawa's involvement in the plot, but that they are still probing whether the group provided logistical or financial support.
"We are trying to trace links between suspects arrested in Britain and their aides in Pakistan. We have taken several members of militant groups into custody," says one intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Intelligence officials here also said they are investigating other quake-related money flows from charities and individuals in the US, the UK, and other parts of Europe to different welfare-based groups and individuals in Pakistan. "We are also seeing whether the money was misused by any religious group," says one intelligence official.
Meanwhile, media reports have surfaced that funding from a British charity, Crescent Relief, was behind the plot.
The organization, which has denied involvement, allegedly sent substantial sums of money to three different bank accounts in Kashmir last December, says Sajjan Gohel, a terrorism analyst at the Asia Pacific Foundation in London.
The father of two men arrested last week in connection to the plot – one in England, and another, Rashid Rauf, in Pakistan – was a founding director of Crescent Relief. His home in Birmingham, England, was searched by police last week.
"Rashid Rauf is now being seen as the linchpin between those arrested in Britain and those picked up in Pakistan," says Mr. Gohel.
While British authorities have not publicly acknowledged any ties between Crescent Relief and the terror plot, the Charity Commission office has said they are looking into the claims.