Saudi under pressure from US for donor funds to Al Qaeda
Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca during morning prayers before the start of this year's haj pilgrimage. (FILE) REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Saudi Arabia is under pressure from the U.S. to keep a tab on funds for Islamic insurgents, leaked diplomatic cables reveal. Washington claims that the kingdom remained a critical financial support base for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas and other extremist organizations. United States officials alleged that proscribed organizations have been managing to raise millions of dollars as funds from donors in Gulf, mainly during Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage and Ramadan month.

A cable sent out to Washington in January this year stated that Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising. Officials in Dubai seem to be forced to acknowledge that earlier ties between the Taliban and the Kingdom has lead to lingering sympathies which created a potential donor base in the country.

The Hajj is still a major security loophole for the Saudis, since pilgrims often travel with large amounts of cash and the Saudis cannot refuse them entry into Saudi Arabia, the US diplomats wrote to Washington. They also quoted Saudi officials as admiiting, A new Saudi law requires arriving travelers to declare cash over certain amounts, but Hajj was still a vacuum in our security.

US diplomats also claimed that their administration believes that the Al Qaeda receives significant funds from donors in Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, apart from Saudi Arabia.

Cables mention Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of state of United States, asking the Gulf States to adopt a long term strategy in combating terrorist finance.

The approach called for an 'aggressive action to identify, disrupt and deter terrorist donors, fundraisers and facilitators'. It added that the UN 1267 sanctions must be strictly enforced and strong oversight of charities, including their overseas branches should be maintained.

In what seems to be an upshot of the mounting pressure, Saudi security forces in recent months detained 149 people Al-Qaeda suspects. Though the Kingdom's interior ministry stated that the detainees who belonged to 19 different cells were plotting to carry out attacks on the Saudi soil, it is suspected that most of them could have been involved in raising funds for the group. Officials stated that the members plotted to blow up several oil installations, government and military infrastructure. However, a total of 2.24 million riyals ($597,237) were confiscated from the suspects.

Some of the planned attacks were in advanced stages, Interior ministry's spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour ibn Turki said last month. But, he also added that Al-Qaeda has been seeking to raise funds from within Saudi Arabia trying to exploit the enthusiasm of Saudis to do charity work and philanthropy.