Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Charity allegedly linked to Boko Haram

BACKLASH:The al-Muntada Trust found has fallen under scrutiny amid claims that funds ended up in hands of Nigerian terrorists blamed for killing hundreds

The Observer, LONDON

A British charity is under scrutiny amid claims some of its funds have ended up in the hands of African terrorists blamed for killing hundreds of people.

Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in Nigeria with close links to al-Qaeda, has targeted churches and Christians as it seeks to spread terror across the country.

The Nigerian media has reported that the country’s state security -service, working with local and international agencies, believes that money raised by the al-Muntada Trust found its way to Boko Haram.

A charity of that name, which has its headquarters in London, raises money for disaster projects in Africa. It has attracted controversy in the past for giving a platform to radical clerics.

Lord Alton of Liverpool told the UK parliament in July that there was evidence Boko Haram carried out 600 murders this year and called for it to be proscribed in the UK as a terrorist group. Its rise has alarmed Africa experts and prompted concerns of “blowback” for the UK as its supporters return from Nigeria.

Alton raised concerns about Boko Haram’s alleged UK links with Foreign Office Minister Lord Howell in July.

“I can confirm that this has been shared with the Charity Commission and the [London] Metropolitan [Met] police,” Howell told Alton in a recent letter.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “The commission is aware there may be some concerns with regards to an organization entitled al-Muntada Trust Fund and, specifically, allegations that this organization has provided financial support to the Nigerian group, Boko Haram. There are a number of registered charities with a similar name to this organisation, so the commission is not able to confirm at this stage whether or not this relates directly to a UK registered charity.”

A Met spokesman said: “We are aware of the information and are in contact with the Charity Commission, who are assessing it. Should any allegations of criminal offenses come to light, we would investigate. There is no police investigation at this stage.”

A former associate of the London-based trust said there had been previous claims it had funded extremist groups, but these were 15 years old and had been dismissed. There is no evidence that the trust purposely channeled money to terrorists, or that it was aware its money had found its way to Boko Haram.

When asked about the commission’s interest in the trust, its secretary, Abdul Hakeem Montague, promised to respond. However, he did not reply to further requests for comment.

A report published earlier this year by Valentina Soria, an Africa expert at the military think tank RUSI, said that Boko Haram appeared to be emulating the practices of al-Qaeda, something that could trigger “an arc of regional instability” across parts of the continent.

She said Britain could not expect to remain immune from the events in Africa.

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