Kuwait minister accused of 'terrorist funding' quits

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Nayef al-Ajmi resigns for unspecified reasons a month after rejecting accusations by American officials that he has 'supported jihad in Syria'

The Minister for Justice and Islamic Affairs says his resignation has been accepted by the Emir (AFP)
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Thursday 12 February 2015 10:45 UTC
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The Minister for Justice and Islamic Affairs in Kuwait, who has been accused of “promoting jihad in Syria” by a senior American official, resigned on Monday.

“I thank the emir for accepting my resignation and understanding its reasons,” Nayef al-Ajmi wrote on his Twitter account, without further explanation.

Ajmi was appointed in January and accused of “terrorist financing” in Syria by David Cohen, American under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, during a lecture delivered in the US on 1 April.

“His [Ajmi’s] image has been featured on fundraising posters for a prominent al-Nusrah Front financier,” Cohen told an audience at the Centre for a New American Security.

Ajmi said the accusations were “baseless and groundless” and emphasised that his support for Syria had been “charitable, religious and humanitarian”, according to state news agency KUNA.

Kuwaitis have been quick to ask for Ajmi to clarify why he has resigned.

"Your tweets are very emotional," one person tweeted at Ajmi. "I wish to know, what is the principal reason for submitting your resignation? It is our right as a people to know."

"You did not clarify your reasons," tweeted another. "You are the one who participated in elections and called on people to participate and demanded reform by way of participation?!".

Ajmi did not elaborate, but local media say he has quit for health reasons.

It is the second time Ajmi has tried to resign. An earlier attempt in April was rejected by the emir when he “asked to be relieved of his post because of health problems which predated the accusation that he backed terror," Kuwaiti daily al-Rai reported at the time.

It is unclear what the health issues are, but Ajmi wrote on Twitter in April that he was in London “undergoing tests” when the allegations made by Cohen were published in the Kuwaiti media. He cut the tests short and returned home immediately to refute the allegations.

In the April lecture, under-secretary Cohen warned fundraisers for “extremist insurgents” were operating in Kuwait.

“The recipients of these funds are often terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” he said.

America and their allies have been keen to stem the influence of groups they define as terrorists in Syria, with recent reports suggesting they have gone as far as orchestrating defeats for the rebels when al-Nusra and others may benefit.

A rebel commander captured by al-Nusra on 3 May has been shown in a video posted to YouTube by his captors saying international backers of the rebels had instructed him to ensure they lost a key battle with regime forces last year. Ahmed Nehmeh, who appeared beaten up in the video, said international supporters of the rebels want to quell the influence of al-Nusra in the Syrian conflict.