Intercepted messages reveal the Qatari government paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in ransom money to free nationals captured while on a hunting trip in Iraq in 2015, including to groups regarded as sponsors of terrorism.
A report in The Washington Post revealed that Qatar made secret payments totaling at least $275 million to Iraqi and Iranian officials and groups widely regarded as sponsors of international terrorism. Those include the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, and Kata’ib Hezbollah, a Shiite militia linked to lethal attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
In total, nine members of the Qatari royal family and 16 Qatari nationals were freed. “The Syrians, Hezbollah-Lebanon, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Iraq – all want money, and this is their chance,” wrote Zayed bin Saeed al-Khayareen, Qatar’s ambassador to Iraq in a secret message.
On April 27, 2017, Khayareen gave Qatar’s foreign minister the details of the deal over the phone: five recipients who would receive $150 million in Qatari cash. “Qassem, 50. Sulaymaniyah [provincial government official who facilitated the negotiations], 50. Abu Hussain, leader of Kata’ib, 25. Banhai [Iranian official involved in the talks], 20.”
The intercepted records further reveal the total amount of ransom paid could have been as high as $1 billion once taking into account the larger implications of the deal. Qatar made payments to the governments of Iran, Iraq and Turkey, as well as at least two Syrian opposition groups, including al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra.
The U.S government designated Jabhat Al Nusra as a terrorist entity in 2012. Kata’ib Hezbollah was put on the list in 2009. In October, U.S. President Donald Trump placed the Islamic Revolutionary Gard Corps under terrorism designation. Soleimani had previously been designated a terrorist in 2011.
A diplomatic crisis erupted in June last year, when Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut all ties to Qatar over allegations it was funding extremists and being too close to Iran. Qatar has long has denied funding extremists. The rift prompted President Trump to denounce Qatar as “funder of state terrorism at a very high level.”
Source » thetower