Defense

Saudi official: Terrorists using Fallujah to fundraise

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Terrorist groups are using the humanitarian situation in Fallujah to fundraise, according to a senior official in Saudi Arabia.

“They are focusing on any event that results in a humane crisis, like the one going on in Fallujah now in Iraq,” said Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki. 

{mosads}”This is now heavily being used by many to encourage people to give money for the children of Fallujah,” he said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters on terrorist financing. 

The United Nations estimates as many as 90,000 civilians are inside Fallujah, where U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces are moving in to retake the city from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

There is growing international concern that the civilians in Fallujah, who are primarily Sunni, will be persecuted by Shiite-dominant Iraqi security forces or Shiite militia groups who are participating in the offensive just outside of Fallujah. 

There have been local reports alleging that civilians fleeing from Fallujah have been caught and tortured by Shiite militia forces clearing neighborhoods outside of Fallujah. 

The U.S. has not been able to independently verify those reports, but Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has launched an investigation into the alleged cases, Army Col. Chris Garver, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said on Wednesday. 

However, Garver said Iraqi security forces have been screening and detaining some fleeing civilians who are suspected to be terrorists.

Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to fall to ISIS in 2014, due in part to a sympathetic Sunni population that faced persecution from the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. 

Mansour said people donating money are “not providing money for terrorism,” but are misled into thinking it is for humanitarian reasons. 

He added that “fortunately, not so many people” in Saudi Arabia were responding to the situation in Fallujah.  

“But,” he added, “you cannot control the sympathy of people and there are many others actually who are accusing Saudi Arabia of preventing its own nationals and Muslims in Saudi Arabia from helping other Muslims in other regions.” 

“Unfortunately, this is exactly what’s happening,” he said. “They’re using the miseries of others in order to make individuals [give] for humane reasons.”

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