CIA Report on NGOs With Terror Links

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Report on NGOs With Terror Links  (1996) 
Central Intelligence Agency

International Islamic charities have established a presence in nearly every country around the world that has a substantial Muslim population. For both traditional and more activist Muslims, aiding Muslims in distress is a religious duty. Islamic activists dominate the leadership of the largest charities, and prominent members of some smaller organizations have been identified as extremists. The main objectives of these organizations include proselytizing, helping the needy, and defending Muslim communities from enemies. Where Muslims are engaged in armed conflict, some Islamic organizations provide military aid as part of a "humanitarian" package.

The main Islamic charities maintain headquarters and raise money in a few regional centers, the most important being in the Arabian Peninsula and Sudan. Smaller organizations — important because of their support to extremist groups — often have headquarters in Europe and offices in North America. Private donors retain a major influence on each group's policies.

Governments in the Islamic world generally support the major charities' religious activities and finance them, but are unable to monitor the groups or control how they use their money. These governments rely on the NGOs to collect and distribute much of the humanitarian aid given to refugees and displaced persons. Leaders of countries where Islamic NGOs are based or operate are unlikely to take major steps to stop the organizations' activities unless they believe that these groups threaten their own stability or are damaging important bilateral or multilateral relationships.

All of the major and most of the minor Islamic charities are significant players in the former Yugoslavia, particularly in aiding Bosnian Muslims. Their contributions represent a significant proportion of humanitarian aid in Bosnia. According to the US embassy in Riyadh, Saudi nationals alone gave $150 million through Islamic NGOs for aid to Bosnia in 1994. Most of the offices of NGOs active in Bosnia are located in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. Their field operations appear to be confined to the Muslim areas of Northeastern and Central Bosnia.

The NGOs' charitable activities include delivery of food, clothing, and medicine; support to orphanages, schools, hospitals, and refugee camps; and housing construction, infrastructure support, and agricultural projects.

Many of these organizations also support foreign mujahedin fighters in Bosnia. Coordination councils based in Zagreb and Sarajevo, coordinate the activities of the most important organizations. These councils may function like a similar one established in Peshawar, Pakistan, which organizes arms shipments and aid to military training camps, and provides humanitarian aid to refugees, according to a clandestine source.

A growing body of reporting indicates that some of these charities are being used to aid Islamic extremist groups that engage in terrorism. We have information that nearly one third of the Islamic NGOs in the Balkans have facilitated the activities of Islamic groups that engage in terrorism, including the Egyptian Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya, Palestinian Hamas, Algerian Groups, and Lebanese Hizballah. Some of the terrorist groups, such as Al-Gama'at, have access to credentials for the UN High Commission for Refugees and other UN staff in the former Yugoslavia.

Efforts by governments to counter terrorist groups' use of NGOs are complicated by domestic and international political concerns, legal constraints, and the size and flexibility of the international extremist network. Domestic Islamic organizations — and sometimes foreign governments — have accused host governments of attacking legitimate Islamic institutions and intentionally hampering relief efforts. Although some governments have proved willing to act when their own interests were at stake and when legal grounds existed for targeting individual NGO employees or even NGO branch offices, only some measures have proved effective and all have drawbacks. Four approaches have been used:

  • 1: CLOSED NGO OFFICES: Several countries — including Italy, Austria, Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia — have closed the offices of NGOs whose members supported opposition groups, otherwise attacked the government, or conducted certain illegal activities such as arms smuggling. In each case, some employees of the targeted offices escaped and joined other NGOs, usually in neighboring countries, where they continued their activities. In some cases, the offices reopened later at new addresses.
  • 2: CONTROL FINANCES: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates have taken steps in the past two years to control the flow of money to extremists. They have passed laws mandating that major donations go only to government approved charities or a central collecting agency, and they have removed street-corner charity boxes placed by some NGOs:
Central collecting agencies have increased their resources and power, but we have no evidence that these efforts have proved effective in curbing the activities of NGOs. Most measures are one-time-only acts with little follow-up, and oversight of field operations has not increased.
Donations from citizen's overseas accounts undoubtedly continue, and smaller NGOs may be backed by powerful interest groups.
Most governments have little or no authority over NGOs based on their territory.
  • 3: CONTROL STAFFING: Governments have sometimes exerted greater control over personnel in semiofficial NGOs, particularly when pressured by foreign governments. For example, Saudi Arabia fired the head of the Peshawar, Pakistan branch of the Muslim World League, who was illicitly supplying League documentation and arms to militants in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, after coming under pressure to do so from Egypt, Algeria, and other states. We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan — such as the Saudi High Commission - - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.
  • 4: ARREST INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS: Some countries have continued to allow suspect NGOs to operate while arresting individual members for terrorism or other illegal acts. This tactic, when applied consistently, appears to be the most successful in halting illegal activities within NGOs. For example, police in the Philippines have been investigating people and organizations, including NGOs, involved in plots against Western airliners, ambassadors, the Pope, and Philippine officials since January 1995. These investigations have led to periodic arrests and appear to have prevented some NGOs, including the International Islamic Relief Organization, from continuing to be used as cover for illicit activities. The Philippine government has escaped condemnation for its efforts by all but extremist Islamic groups and appears to have foiled, to date, any attempts by those groups to exact revenge.
Other countries have faced retribution from extremist Islamic groups for the arrest of their members, however. For example, Egyptian Islamic extremist groups conducted terrorist attacks in both Croatia and Pakistan this year because those governments arrested known terrorists operating withing NGOs. In both cases, the governments claim that the attacks were perpetrated with the help of extremists operating in different NGOs.


The following 15 organizations employ members or otherwise facilitate the activities of terrorist groups operating in Bosnia. Many of the organizations belong to Coordination Councils. Some Islamic NGOs, not included in this list, have terrorist connections outside of the Balkans.


  • Arabic name: Mu'assasat al-Haramayn al-Khayriyya
  • AKA: The Charitable Establishment of the Two Holy Mosques.
  • Offices: Zagreb, Rijeka, Osijek, and Belikoj Gorici, Albania (has had offices in Macedonia, Sudan, and Somalia)
  • Extremist Connections: Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya
  • Support for Extremist/Terrorist Activities: Al-Haramayn helps fund and support the Mujahedin battalion in Zenica, according to a foreign government service. The Zagreb office has been raided often by Croatian security for smuggling activities. In Macedonia, press reports have accused the organization of illegal funding through drugs and prostitution.
  • Links to other NGOs: No information.


  • Arabic Name: Hay'at Al-A'mal Al-Khayriyya.
  • AKA: Charitable Works Organization/Committee, Charity Organization (original name).
  • Offices: Zagreb and Tuzla. Headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Other offices in Sidon, Khartoum, Nouakchott, Mauritania, and also in Denmark, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
  • Extremist connections: Hamas
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activities: Among other activities, this organization probably acts as a fund-raiser for Hamas, according to a foreign government service.
  • Links to Other NGOs: Coordination Council, Human Relief International (HRI), Muwafaq, Qatar Charitable Society.


  • Offices: Zagreb. Headquartered in Ottawa, Canada with other offices in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Sweden.
  • Extremist Connections: Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya, Algerian Groups
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: Two foreign government services report that HCI provides support to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group and has contacts with Al-Gama'at. According to one service, the office in Sweden may smuggle weapons to Bosnia. Pakistani press reports that the head of the office in Pakistan was arrested recently for his suspected role in the November 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. Other press reports say that the entire Peshawar office is made up of Gama'at members.
  • Links to other NGOs: no information


  • AKA: Human Relief Agency (HRA), a subsidiary if HRI
  • Offices: Zagreb, Tuzla, Kosovo, Dobrinja, and probably Lukavac, Zivinice, Kiseljak, and London. Subordinate to the Egyptian Doctor's Union, which is dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. A foreign government service reports that the organization has split into two groups, HRI and HRA.
  • Extremist Connections: Possibly Hamas, Algerian Militants, Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya.
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: In 1993 Muhammad Sa'd Darwish Al-Shazy, a HRI employee and member of a radical Islamic extremist group, possibly Hamas, used the HRA's Zagreb office and a mosque to promote ideas for terrorist acts, according to the service. The reporting claims that Al-Shazy's group was considering committing anti-Jewish bombings there, and included the heads of the Zagreb offices of the Saudi High Commission and the Kuwaiti Joint Relief Committee, the head of HRI's Vienna office, and members of the Saudi-based International Islamic Relief Organization and the privately-run Qatar Charitable Society. At a December 1993 meeting in the HRA office in Zagreb, according to the same source, some of the group discussed plans to assassinate a former Algerian Prime Minister and PLO Chief Yasir Arafat, and to conduct bombings to support the "brother Algerians" in Croatia. HRA's office in Albania was staffed by Gama'at members, including the late Anwar Shaban, killed by Croatian security forces in December, who were involved in the 1993 surveillance of the US embassy in Tirana. The office was closed in April 1995 due to pressure from Albanian authorities.
  • Links to Other NGOs: Coordination Council, International Islamic Relief Organization, Qatar Charitable Society, Kuwaiti Joint Relief Committee, Saudi High Commission


  • AKA: International Humanitarian Relief Organization
  • Offices: Zagreb and Sarajevo. Headquarters in Germany, established by a member of the Turkish Refah Party
  • Extremist connections: Iran Algerian Groups
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: The Sarajevo office director has been linked to Iranian operatives
  • Links to Other NGOs: No information.


  • Arabic Name: Hay'at Al-Ighatha al-Islamiyya Al-'Alamiyya
  • AKA: Ighatha or Igasa
  • Offices: Zagreb, Sarajevo, Split, Ljubljana, and Tuzla; Also in Vienna, Austria. Operates in Celic, Gracanica, Zivinice, Srebrenik, Banovici, Kalesija, and Teocak. Headquarters in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League (MWL), a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia. Last year, the head of the MWL, who is appointed by King Fahd, was also chairman of the Board of Trustees of the IIRO, according to IIRO literature. The IIRO has offices in over 90 countries.
  • Extremist connections: Hamas, Algerians, Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who is awaiting trial in New York for his suspected involvement in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993]. Usama Bin Ladin, a wealthy Saudi-born businessman currently residing in Sudan who supports various Islamic extremist groups.
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: The regional financial accountant for the IIRO, an Egyptian named Hossam Meawad Mohammad Ali, was detained by Croatian authorities in a raid in Zagreb in April 1995 and has relocated to Ljubljana, according to a foreign government service. The Macedonian government closed the IIRO office in Skopje in March 1995 for aiding Albanian ethnic political parties and the Albanian Islamic Youth organization. The former head of the IIRO office in the Philippines, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the Pope and US airlines; his brother-in-law is Usama Bin Ladin. Another high-ranking official in the Philippines leads Hamas meetings, and the majority of Hamas members in the Philippines are employed by the organization. The IIRO helps fund six militant training camps in Afghanistan, according to a clandestine source.
  • Links to Other NGOs: Coordination Council, HRA, Third World Relief Agency, Qatar Charitable Society, KJRC, Saudi High Commission


  • AKA: IARA, YARA, African Islamic Relief Agency
  • Offices: Sarajevo, Zagreb, Tirana, Tuzla, Kalesija, and unspecified cities in Germany. Operates in Kalesija, Banovici, Doboj East, and Zvornik. Based in Khartoum, Sudan. Offices in 30 countries worldwide.
  • Extremist connections: Sudan
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: The ISRA office in Zagreb provides weapons to the Bosnian military, according to a clandestine source. The source claimed the office was controlled by officials of Sudan's ruling party, the National Islamic Front.
  • Links to Other NGOs: Third World Relief Agency


  • AKA: General Committee For Refugee Assistance
  • Offices: Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Ljubljana. KJRC is the official Kuwaiti government organization which distributes funds to other NGOs.
  • Extremist connections: Possibly Hamas, Algerians, Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: The Zagreb office director, Professor Shaikh Abu Adil Uthman Al-Hayder, was described by an associate as a "powerful Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood member," according to a foreign government service, and members of his office were involved in meetings involving several extremist groups held at the Human Relief Agency Office in Zagreb in 1993 (See HRI for further details).
  • Links to Other NGOs: HRI (HRA), IIRO, Qatar Charitable Society, Saudi High Commission


  • AKA: Islamic Charity Committee; Probably a subsidiary of the Saudi-based Muslim World League.
  • Offices: Zagreb and Zenica. Headquarters in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • Extremist connections: Afghan veterans.
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: One Zagreb employee, identified as Syrian-born US citizen Abu Mahmud, was in Pakistan at an unspecified time, according to a foreign government service. He matches the description, provided by a clandestine source, of a man who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir in July 1995, and who left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the United States. The source said that he worked at various times for LBI, Maktab Al-Khidmat, and Benevolence Foundation International in Pakistan. Lajnat Al-Birr has provided support to a commander of at least one training camp in Afghanistan, according to a clandestine source.
  • Links to Other NGOs: IIRO, possibly Maktab Al-Khidamat. Probably a subsidiary of the Saudi-based Muslim World League.


  • AKA: Human Services Organization/Office (HSO), Al-Kifah
  • Offices: Zagreb and Sarajevo. Headquarters in Peshawar, Pakistan.
  • Extremist connections: Algerian groups, Afghan Veterans, Ramzi Yousef, Usama Bin Ladin, and possibly Hizballah, and Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activities: According to a foreign government service, the former director of the Zagreb office of HSO and his deputy were both senior members of Algerian extremist groups; French police arrested the deputy for weapons smuggling in France in July 1994, according to a French law enforcement official. Another foreign government service reported that an Algerian national affiliated with HSO and a senior commander of the mujahedin, also Algerian, were preparing for an unspecified terrorist attack in Europe if Shaykh Umar Abd Al-Rahman, then on trial in New York for complicity in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, were convicted. The Shaykh was convicted in October 1995 of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts in the United States. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on 17 January 1996. In April 1995, the Croatian service detained an Algerian employee of the HSO who had in his possession passports of Arab individuals in Bosnia, including an employee of the Third World Relief Agency, according to the second service. The press has reported that some employees of MAK's New York branch were involved in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993]. The Peshawar office funds at least nine training camps in Afghanistan, according to clandestine sources.
  • Links to Other NGOs: TWRA, IIRO. MAK is suspected of having links to the Muslim World League.


  • Arabic Name: Al-Muwafaq
  • AKA: Muwafaq, Muwafaq Foundation, and Muwafaq Al-Khayriyya Benevolent Foundation.
  • Offices: Zagreb, Sarajevo, Split, Zenica, Dobrinja, Tirana, Konjic, and Tuzla. Plans to establish offices in Kakanj, Visoko, Vitez, Travnik, Bugojno, Majlaj, Mostar, Jablanica, and Pazaric. Also operates in Tarcin and Sipovo and has other Bosnia-related offices in Siegen, Germany, and Vienna, Austria. Registered in Jersey, United Kingdom, but based in Khartoum, Sudan.
  • Extremist connections: Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: This organization helps fund the Egyptian Mujahedin Battalion in Bosnia, according to a foreign government service, and it also funds at least one training camp in Afghanistan.
  • Links to Other NGOs: No information


  • AKA: Qatar Committee to Sponsor Orphans
  • Offices: Zagreb, Sarajevo, Mostar, Tuzla, Zenica, and Split. Also operates in Kalesija, Kladanj, Zivinice, and Lukavac. Based in Doha, Qatar, and funded by private businessmen.
  • Extremist connections: Possibly Hamas, Algerians.
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: An individual identified by the service as a Hamas official is listed as a staff member in both Qatar and the Human Relief Agency (see HRI), where a Hamas leader and Algerians met in 1993 to discuss terrorist operations, according to a foreign government service.
  • Links to Other NGOs: HRI, IIRO, KJRC, Saudi High Commission, Human Appeal International, Coordination Council.


  • Arabic Name: Helal Ahmar
  • AKA: Iranian Red Crescent Society, Iranian Humanitarian Aid Organization.
  • Offices: Sarajevo, Split, Tuzla, and Zenica
  • Extremist connections: Iran
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: Often used by the Iranian Mois as cover for intelligence officers, agents, and arms shipments.
  • Links to Other NGOs: Merhamet (Croatia)


  1. The official Saudi government organization for collecting and disbursing humanitarian aid.
  • Offices: Zagreb, Sarajevo, and Tuzla. Operates in Zenica, Mostar, and Split.
  • Extremist connections: Hamas, Algerians
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: (See Human Relief International for details on connections of individual members to possibly Hamas and Algerian militants.) The offices are staffed by Saudis, Syrians, Algerians, Moroccans, and Jordanians, according to a foreign government service.
  • Links to Other NGOs: HRI, IIRO, KJRC, Qatar Charitable Society.


  • Offices: Zagreb, Tuzla, Sarajevo, Split, Istanbul, and unspecified cities in Germany and Switzerland. Headquartered in Sudan, office in Turkey
  • Extremist connections: Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya
  • Support to Extremist/Terrorist Activity: An employee of TWRA alleged to be a member of Gama'at carried out a suicide car bombing of a Croatian police facility in Rijeka in Mid-October, in retaliation for the Croatians' arrest of a senior Gama'at member, according to a foreign government service. The bombing was overseen by Anwar Shaban, former leader of the mujahedin in Zenica, who was killed in December 1995 by Croatian security forces. He and other mujahidin leaders had begun planning to attack NATO forces which would be sent to Bosnia, according to a foreign government service. A confidential contact reports that the regional director of the organization, Dr. Muhammad Fatih Hasanayn, is the most influential NGO official in Bosnia. He is a major arms supplier to the government, according to clandestine and press reporting, and was forced to relocate his office from Zagreb in 1994 after his weapons smuggling operations were exposed. According to a foreign government service, Hasanayn supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia. (One NGO in Bosnia that includes extremist US Muslims is Taibah International, which has offices in Zagreb, Split, and Sarajevo.) In August 1995, Hasanayn sent his brother to Italy to assess the Gama'at network there after the raids by Italian police, according to a foreign government service. Hasanayn intended to resume funding Al-Gama'at and other extremists in Milan and Rome when the network was rebuilt.
  • Links to Other NGOs: MAK, ISRA, MWL


  • Arabic: Lajnat Al-'alam Al-Islami
  • Is a subcommittee of the Social Reform Society, which is a legally-registered charity in Kuwait, run by members of the Muslim Brotherhood (also legal in Kuwait). According to information the group provided to the US embassy in Kuwait, the IWC contributed $2,427, 235 in aid to Muslims in the Balkans in 1994. Established in 1982, as of late 1995 it had offices in Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Zagreb as well as in Albania, Bulgaria, and Austria. The Committee's area of responsibility also includes South and Southeast Asia. The IWC president is 'Abd Al' Aziz Al-Jiran. We have very little information on the IWC's activities, but it probably supported Arab Mujahidin in Bosnia at least before the Dayton Agreement. Overtly, the IWC sponsors educational and medical aid and proselytizes an reformist version of Islam based on Muslim Brotherhood principles. US military reporting has linked a member of the organization with a former mujahidin camp in Maglaj, and sources in other regions of the world have linked a few employees of the IWC with Arab extremist groups, although we have no evidence that the Kuwait-based leadership has been aware of these links. Another subcommittee of the Social Reform Society appears to have been substantially involved in supporting Arab Mujahidin in Afghanistan. We have no evidence of direct or continuing ties between the IWC or its parent organization and Iran.