Wikileaks Cablegate PH update: US government wanted to know if Saudi Ambassador to Manila was aiding terrorists

Posted: December 6, 2010 in War on Terror, WikiLeaks
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There have not been many mentions of the Philippines in the ongoing Wikileaks Cablegate. One recent classified memorandum from the US embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia includes a discussion between a top US security adviser under Bush and the Saudi foreign minister. One of the topics discussed was whether the Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Mohammad Amin Waly was in some way aiding terrorism in the Philippines.

The February 2007 memo was from US Ambassador to Riyadh James Oberwetter. The document was marked “SECRET” and was distributed via the US Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET) and was thus marked SIPDIS.  Recipients of the memo include the US National Security Council and the Secretary of State.

According to the memo, the private meeting was between Assistant to the President on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Frances Fragos Townsend (not Francis as memo mistakenly states) and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal. The meeting took place February 6 and covered issues such as counterterrorism and regional political issues. The Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Muhammad Amin Wali was just one of several topics discussed. The private meeting was described by the US ambassador as:

“In a following private meeting with Saud, attended only by the Ambassador, APHSCT Townsend raised US concerns with the potential involvement of the Saudi ambassador to the Philippines Muhammad Amin Waly (Wali) in terrorism facilitation, particularly his intervention to get two members of IIRO out of prison.  Prince Saud said some of his actions may have involved bad judgment rather than intentional support for terrorism.  Waly had been investigated, he said, and no evidence was found regarding his involvement.  Since this (Wali) Ambassador’s assignment in Manila would be ending in several months, Saud asked for USG (US government) evidence of his involvement. APHSCT Townsend said the USG would cooperate with the Mubahith in providing evidence.”

The IIRO referred to by Townsend is the International Islamic Relief Organization, a charity based in Saudi Arabia. The US government considers the IIRO branch in the Philippines and Indonesia as conduits for funding the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya. The US government calls it a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist Group”. The designation was made on August 3, 2006. Apparently the IIRO is not the only charitable institution that the US government has designated as a conduit for terrorist funding.

The IIRO has vehemently denied the allegations of the US government. It said that the evidence presented against it were primarily news clippings and secret evidence which IIRO lawyers have not seen. The IIRO secretary general denied its office in the Philippines supported terrorist groups.

Also during the private discussion between Prince Saud and Townsend, the Saudi official complained of the difficulties faced by the Saudi embassy’s bank account in Washington. Saud said that the US bank was conducting a stringent audit of the Saudi embassy’s bank account, beyond what was required by law.

The US government has expressed its frustration over the Saudi government’s handling of allegations of terrorist funding emanating from their country. “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” says US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in one memorandum.

Other than this minor mention of the Philippines, we have yet to read any cable emanating from the US embassy in Manila. ###

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