Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi

Hajjaj Bin Fahd al-Ajmi is a Kuwaiti-born financier and facilitator who has funneled money to al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 8, 2014, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx. Since 2012, Ajmi has utilized a variety of social media platforms to launch fundraising appeals and campaigns to fund jihadist rebel groups in the Syrian civil war,“Terrorist Financing and Social Media,” Camstoll Group, December 2016, https://www.un.org/sc/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/TCG_Social-Media-TF_11DEC161.pdf. traveling regularly to Qatar to give speeches as part of his fundraising efforts.“Kuwait releases detained cleric suspected of financing militants,” Reuters, August 21, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-kuwait-cleric-idUSKBN0GL1X120140821;
David D. Kirkpatrick, “Qatar’s Support of Islamists Alienates Allies Near and Far,” New York Times, September 7, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/world/middleeast/qatars-support-of-extremists-alienates-allies-near-and-far.html.
In 2014, after Ajmi was designated a terrorist by the United States“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 8, 2014, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx. and the United Nations,“Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi,” U.N. Security Council, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/hajjaj-bin-fahd-al-ajmi. his Twitter account at the time was suspended. Nonetheless, he has continued to maintain an active social media presence, including an Instagram account with over 1.7 million followers as of June 2017,hajajalajmi, Instagram profile, accessed June 27, 2017, https://www.instagram.com/hajajalajmi/;
“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.
to solicit donations and finance terrorist groups in Syria.

Ajmi is descended from a prominent and wealthy Kuwaiti family.Joby Warrick, “Private money pours into Syrian conflict as rich donors pick sides,” Washington Post, June 15, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/private-money-pours-into-syrian-conflict-as-rich-donors-pick-sides/2013/06/15/67841656-cf8a-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html?utm_term=.8d3b97d119ba. In June 2012, he established an organization called the “Popular Commission in Support of the Syrian Revolution” to raise funds to support jihadist groups in the Syrian civil war, largely through Twitter accounts.“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf;
Elizabeth Dickinson, “The Case Against Qatar,” Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/30/the-case-against-qatar/.
Just over a year later, Ajmi’s Commission had raised “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to the Washington Post, although it is difficult to obtain reliable figures on private donations.Joby Warrick, “Private money pours into Syrian conflict as rich donors pick sides,” Washington Post, June 15, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/private-money-pours-into-syrian-conflict-as-rich-donors-pick-sides/2013/06/15/67841656-cf8a-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html?utm_term=.8d3b97d119ba;
hajajalajmi, Instagram post, July 19, 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/BIC8cYTBQJF/?hl=en;
hajajalajmi, Instagram post, September 2, 2015, https://www.instagram.com/p/7IYs7IGUEg/?hl=en.

The Popular Commission was not Ajmi’s only fundraising effort. In June 2012, Ajmi traveled to Qatar to deliver a fundraising pitch and solicit private funds from wealthy Qataris in Doha,David D. Kirkpatrick, “Qatar’s Support of Islamists Alienates Allies Near and Far,” New York Times, September 7, 2014, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/08/world/middleeast/qatars-support-of-extremists-alienates-allies-near-and-far.html. at the invitation of an official in the Qatari Ministry of Endowments.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686;
Elizabeth Dickinson, “The Case Against Qatar,” Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/30/the-case-against-qatar/.
In mid-2013, Ajmi led the “Mobilization of the People of Qatar Campaign” to raise funds to provide weapons and support to jihadist groups in Syria.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686;
“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf.

Ajmi also traveled to Syria in 2013, as the U.N. Security Council notes that he was photographed with fighters in Syria’s Latakia Governorate during that summer.“Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi,” U.N. Security Council, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/hajjaj-bin-fahd-al-ajmi. Throughout 2013, various jihadist groups in Syria publicly thanked him for his support in videos or statements posted online.“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf;
Joby Warrick, “Private money pours into Syrian conflict as rich donors pick sides,” Washington Post, June 15, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/private-money-pours-into-syrian-conflict-as-rich-donors-pick-sides/2013/06/15/67841656-cf8a-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html?utm_term=.8d3b97d119ba.
In August 2013, the Nusra Front’s media office specifically directed donors to Ajmi’s Twitter account.Mark Nakhala, “Terrorist Financing & Social Media,” Camstoll Group, December 2016, https://www.un.org/sc/ctc/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/TCG_Social-Media-TF_11DEC161.pdf. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Ajmi offered money to the Nusra Front to lead a military campaign in Homs, Syria, in January 2014.“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 8, 2014, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx.

In August 2014, Ajmi was designated as a terrorist and placed on sanctions lists by multiple countries and organizations, notably the United States,“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 8, 2014, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx. United Kingdom,“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK,” UK Sanctions List, June 21, 2017, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.pdf. and the United Nations.“Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi,” U.N. Security Council, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/hajjaj-bin-fahd-al-ajmi. Following these designations, Twitter suspended Ajmi’s account.Steven Nelson, “Evildoers of Twitter Beware: You Can Now Be Served Lawsuits in a Tweet,” U.S. News and World Report, October 6, 2016, https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-10-06/accused-terror-financier-can-be-served-lawsuit-via-twitter-judge-rules. However, he re-emerged on the social media platform with a new account mere hours later, and his supporters circulated a hashtag that helped him regain a large following.“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf. By April 2016, Ajmi’s second active Twitter account had more than 197,000 followers.“Blacklisted Terrorism Financiers Still Active on Social Media,” World Stock Market News, April 25, 2016, http://stockmarketnewsworld.com/blacklisted-terrorism-financiers-still-active-on-social-media/. Although that account has since been suspended, Ajmi has been active on other social media platforms. He began using Snapchat in October 2015,“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf;
“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686;
hajajalajmi, Instagram post, June 27, 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/BHKptRPBoBc/?taken-by=hajajalajmi&hl=en.
and as of June 2017, still maintains an active Instagram account with over 1.7 million followers.hajajalajmi, Instagram profile, accessed June 27, 2017, https://www.instagram.com/hajajalajmi/. The Twitter account for the “Popular Commission in Support of the Syrian Revolution” also remains active.alhayahalshabyh, Twitter profile, accessed June 26, 2017, https://twitter.com/alhayahalshabyh;
“Use of Social Media by Terrorist Fundraisers & Financiers,” Camstoll Group, April 2016, https://www.camstoll.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Social-Media-Report-4.22.16.pdf;
Elizabeth Dickinson, “The Case Against Qatar,” Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014, http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/09/30/the-case-against-qatar/.
Additionally, Gulf News Qatar reports that Ajmi is once again active on Twitter under the handle @hajajbinfahad,“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686. although the account is unverified.

Ajmi was arrested on August 20, 2014, by Kuwaiti authorities at the airport in Kuwait upon his return from a trip to Qatar.“Kuwait arrests suspected Qaeda financier,” Al Arabiya, August 20, 2014, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/08/21/Kuwait-arrests-suspected-Qaeda-financier-.html. However, he was released the following day without charge.“Kuwait releases detained cleric suspected of financing militants,” August 21, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-kuwait-cleric-idUSKBN0GL1X120140821. In June 2016, St. Francis of Assisi, a non-profit organization based in California and dedicated to assisting Syrian refugees, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Ajmi for claims that he financed ISIS’s killing of its clients: Christians in Iraq and Syria.Nicholas Iovino, “Banks Accused of Funding ‘Christian Genocide,’” Courthouse News Service, June 14, 2016, http://oldarchives.courthousenews.com/2016/06/14/banks-accused-of-funding-christian-genocide.htm. The case made headlines when a judge granted St. Francis permission to serve the lawsuit via Twitter, the only potential way to reach Ajmi, an avid user of the social media platform. However, Ajmi’s followers rallied against the non-profit in October 2016, and his Twitter account was subsequently deactivated.Jessica Floum, “Social media: a tool or a risk for courtrooms?” San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2016, http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Social-media-a-tool-or-a-risk-for-courtrooms-10592248.php.

Ajmi today posts regularly on Instagram, generating social media posts often including photographs of Syrian children wounded or killed in the war. On occasion, Ajmi has urged donations to terrorist-linked charities. In one post, he asked donors to support a charity called Mercy International, whose efforts he trusts in “relieving [the suffering of] the Syrian people,” and provides a number and website for donations.hajajalajmi, Instagram post, January 9, 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/BAT7lz6mUFI/?hl=en. The Mercy International Relief Organization has been accused of facilitating terrorism in the past: a former al-Qaeda member testified that it played a central role in facilitating the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya.Matthew Levitt, “Charitable and Humanitarian Organizations in the Network of International Terrorist Financing,” Washington Institute, August 1, 2002, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/charitable-and-humanitarian-organizations-in-the-network-of-international-t.

Hajjaj Al Ajmi Instagram post, January 9, 2016. Ajmi’s caption reads, “In Kuwait, I trust in the efforts of all of Mercy International in relieving [the suffering of] the Syrian people. They have a campaign to help with besieged Madaya. [You all] support them to help your brothers.” The Twitter handle @khaironline is the Mercy International charity’s online portal for soliciting donations and support. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has included Mercy International within its Specially Designated Nationals list for its links to Hamas.“Counter Terrorism Designations,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, December 7, 2016, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20161207.aspx.

In another post on Instagram, Ajmi asked donors to support the Islamic International Charitable Organization,hajajalajmi, Instagram post, May 27, 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/BUm6V5XB5d3/?taken-by=hajajalajmi&hl=en. a Kuwaiti-based organization with reported links to Hamas.Matthew A. Levitt, “Hearing on ‘The Role of Charities and NGOs in the Financing of Terrorist Activities’,” U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, August 1, 2002, https://www.banking.senate.gov/02_08hrg/080102/levitt.htm.

Hajjaj Al Ajmi Instagram post, May 27, 2017. Ajmi mentions the International Islamic Charitable Organization, a Kuwaiti-based charity linked to Hamas.

Ajmi was also able to create his own ads on social media platforms that allowed donors to pay him directly.“Blacklisted Terrorism Financiers Still Active on Social Media,” World Stock Market News, April 25, 2016, http://stockmarketnewsworld.com/blacklisted-terrorism-financiers-still-active-on-social-media/. In other posts, Ajmi provides contact information through “advertisements” for real estate or car companies.hajajalajmi, Instagram post, January 13, 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/BAeRKwKGUCB/?hl=en;
hajajalajmi, Instagram post, February 20, 2017, https://www.instagram.com/p/BQu_Dw4hzCg/?hl=en.

In June 2017, after cutting ties with Qatar over its support of terrorism, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain designated Ajmi a terrorist based on his campaigns in Qatar to raise funds for terrorist groups.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.

United States

The U.S. Department of the Treasury designated “Hajjaj Fahd Hajjaj Muhammad Sahib al-‘Ajmi” as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 on August 6, 2014.“Treasury Designates Three Key Supporters of Terrorists in Syria and Iraq,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, August 8, 2014, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2605.aspx.

Australia

Australia added “Hajjaj Bin Fahd al Ajmi” to its consolidated list of sanctioned persons and entities on August 15, 2014.“Consolidated List,” Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, June 20, 2017, http://dfat.gov.au/international-relations/security/sanctions/pages/consolidated-list.aspx#list.

Bahrain

Bahrain added “Hajjaj bin Fahad Hajjaj Mohammed al-Ajmi” to its list of designated terrorist individuals on June 9, 2017.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.>

Egypt

Egypt added “Hajjaj bin Fahad Hajjaj Mohammed al-Ajmi” to its list of designated terrorist individuals on June 9, 2017.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.

European Union

The European Union added “Hajjaj Bin Fahd al Ajmi” to its consolidated list of sanctioned persons on August 21, 2014.EU Sanctions List, accessed June 21, 2017, http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/cfsp/sanctions/list/version4/global/global.xml.

United Kingdom

Her Majesty’s Treasury added “Hajjaj bin Fahd al Ajmi” to its consolidated list of financial sanctions targets on August 15, 2014.“Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions Targets in the UK,” UK Sanctions List, June 21, 2017, http://hmt-sanctions.s3.amazonaws.com/sanctionsconlist.pdf.

United Nations

The United Nations Security Council added “Hajjaj bin Fahd al Ajmi” to its Al-Qaida Sanctions List pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 4 of Resolution 2161 (2014) on August 15, 2014.“Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi,” U.N. Security Council, August 15, 2014, https://www.un.org/sc/suborg/en/sanctions/1267/aq_sanctions_list/summaries/individual/hajjaj-bin-fahd-al-ajmi.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia added “Hajjaj bin Fahad Hajjaj Mohammed al-Ajmi” to its list of designated terrorist individuals on June 9, 2017.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.

Switzerland

Switzerland added “Hajjaj Bin Fahd Al Ajmi” to its consolidated list of sanctioned persons on August 27, 2014.“Searching for subjects of sanctions,” Sate Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), June 20, 2017,  https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/en/home/Aussenwirtschaftspolitik_Wirtschaftliche_Zusammenarbeit/Wirtschaftsbeziehungen/exportkontrollen-und-sanktionen/sanktionen-embargos/sanktionsmassnahmen/suche_sanktionsadressaten.html.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates added “Hajjaj bin Fahad Hajjaj Mohammed al-Ajmi” to its list of designated terrorist individuals on June 9, 2017.“Qatar-linked people, groups on terror list,” Gulf News Qatar, June 9, 2017, http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/qatar/qatar-linked-people-groups-on-terror-list-1.2040686.

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