Canada is giving two million dollars to a group collecting money on behalf of a charity whose Pakistan office was once run by alleged al-Qaeda financier Ahmed Said Khadr, the late father of Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced the donation to “Canadian Relief for Syria.” The group is not a registered charity, though its website says it is in the process of obtaining Canada Revenue Agency registration.
In the meantime, anyone wishing to donate to Canadian Relief for Syria is directed by its website to Human Concern International, an Ottawa-based charity. “Founded on Islamic principles of charity and goodwill to humanity, HCI has always believed in helping the needy regardless of their race, nationality or religion,” its website says.
Human Concern International was established in 1980 to help Afghans who had fled to Pakistan to escape the war in their home country.
In 1995, Osama bin Laden told an Egyptian interviewer that Human Concern International funded an al-Qaeda charitable front called “Blessed Relief.” Khadr was in charge of Human Concern International’s Pakistan office at this time. Khadr was arrested on charges of helping an Islamist bombing attack against the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan but was later released following an appeal by then-prime minister Jean Chrétien.
Khadr died in 2003 in the company of Taliban and al-Qaeda members, when Pakistani troops attacked their South Waziristan safe house. An al-Qaeda website profiling “120 Martyrs of Afghanistan” described him as an al-Qaeda leader and praised him for “tossing his little child [Omar] in the furnace of the battle.”
No charges have ever been laid against Human Concern International. It has official charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency.
In an interview with Postmedia News prior to Canada’s funding announcement, Human Concern International’s executive director, Kaleem Akhtar, said that since Khadr’s arrest, the group has “put in much better checks and balances to make sure that we do everything right. … We are a very credible organization and the community has full faith in us. We have been doing it will full transparency and accountability.”
UPDATE: I spoke with Momtaz Almoussly, secretary and board member at Canadian Relief for Syria. He says Canadian Relief for Syria cooperates with Human Concern International, and that Human Concern International issues tax receipts on its behalf, as Canadian Relief for Syria is not yet a registered charitable organization. However, he says the two million dollars from DFAIT will be spent exclusively by Canadian Relief for Syria.