Terror funding report: Calls grow for release of 'sensitive' Home Office document 'pointing finger at Saudi Arabia'
Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron among voices urging prime minister to publish delayed inquiry thought to target major UK weapons buyer following latest terror attack on British soil
The leaders of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to allow the publication of a ‘sensitive’ government report into terror funding in the UK which allegedly focuses on the role of Saudi Arabia.
Calls for the release of the Home Office inquiry into the sources of jihadist propaganda materials and funding are growing more vocal after Saturday’s terror attack in London Bridge, in which seven people were killed.
Isis, which espouses an extremist version of the puritanical Sunni Wahabism practised in Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the incident, the third terror attack on British soil in less than three months.
Speaking in Carlisle on Sunday evening, Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that the UK needs to “have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.
“It is no good Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of extremist groups. We have to get serious about cutting off the funding to these terror networks, including Isis here and in the Middle East.”
Writing in the Guardian on Monday, Liberal Democrat leader also called for the report’s release.
“Theresa May now has a choice. Does she publish that report or keep it hidden?” Mr Farron said.
“May talks of the need to have some difficult and sometimes embarrassing conversations. That should include exposing and rooting out the source funding of terror, even it means difficult and embarrassing conversations with those like Saudi Arabia that the government claims are our allies.”
The Conservative government has been repeatedly criticised for increased arms sales to Riyadh, one of the top destinations for UK arms export licences: recent British arms export licences sold to the Gulf state exceed £3.5bn. Critics say those weapons are fuelling conflict and extremism across the Middle East, including in Yemen.
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The inquiry was commissioned by David Cameron at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats in exchange for their support of extending UK air strikes against Isis into Syria in December 2015.
It was supposed to be published by spring 2016 - but it is still incomplete and may never see the light of day due to its “sensitive” content, a Home Office source told the Guardian said last month.
Talking about the delayed report on Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said that to suggest “[the government] is not taking terrorist financing seriously is ridiculous.”
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When asked whether the British people have a right to know whether the report "points the finger" at Riyadh, Ms Bradley responded the UK must “worth work with our partners and our allies” and that “we save far more lives by working together.”
Earlier in the programme, Hannah Stewart, co-head of the security and extremism unit at thinktank Policy Exchange, also called on the authorities to release the overdue inquiry.
Over the years literature considered “intolerant at least and in some cases extremist” had been found in British mosques which could be directly traced back to Saudi publishers, she said.
“The Saudi regime has one of the most appalling human rights records in the world. If it has played any role in funding or fuelling terrorism or violent groups then we must know. The report must be published, no matter who it is embarrassing for,” Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade told The Independent.
“Regardless of who is elected on Thursday, if the UK is to play a positive role in the Middle East, then it must finally stop arming and supporting brutal dictatorships like Saudi Arabia."
The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats suspended election campaigning on Sunday in the wake of the latest terror attack.
On Monday morning Ms May said it had been "right to pause" out of respect for the victims. Full campaigning is expected to resume later on Monday, with the general election just three days away.
Already a major election topic, the authorities' ability to deal with terror threats has become one of the driving issues of the 2017 campaign after the recent deaths of 34 civilians in incidents in Westminster, Manchester and London Bridge.
A leaked intelligence report last year said that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar are supporting extremist Islamic groups in Germany.
A brief seen by the Süddeutsche Zeitung and broadcasters NDR and WDR raised concern over a reported increase in support for fundamentalist Salafism in Germany, warning that the ideology already has 10,000 followers and is growing.
The report, by Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency and Federal Intelligence Service (BND) reportedly accused Gulf groups of funding mosques, religious schools, hardline preachers and conversion or “dawah” groups to spread the ideology.
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton said in leaked emails, published by WikiLeaks prior to the 2016 US election, that Saudi Arabia and Qatar give Isis clandestine financial and logistic support.
The email exchanges between Hillary Clinton and her 2016 campaign chair John Podesta contained an exchange that showed the presidential candidate identified the Gulf states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar as “clandestine” “financial and logistic” supporters of the terrorist group, despite surface cooperation between the US and the Sunni states on combating the militants and other actions in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.
“While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [Isis] and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” Ms Clinton reportedly wrote.
“This effort will be enhanced by the stepped up commitment in the [Kurdish Regional Government]. The Qataris and Saudis will be put in a position of balancing policy between their ongoing competition to dominate the Sunni world and the consequences of serious US pressure.”
Independent News Service