An al-Qaeda-linked charity group in Turkey has been working with Islami Sangh Nepal (ISN), its regional partner in South Asia, to expand its logistical hub for jihadist networks, a Nordic Monitor investigation has found.
The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH) runs multiple projects in Nepal, especially in areas close to the Indian border, to broaden the support base among the country’s minority Muslim community and expand logistical operations in support of global jihadist networks. The main facilitator for the IHH gaining a foothold in the country was the ISN, which has received funding directly from Turkey to finance various projects.
While Nepal’s ISN was red flagged by the Indian intelligence services for its alleged support of jihadist militants, its Turkish partner, the IHH, was described as an arms smuggler in UN Security Council documents and was investigated for running a line of support to armed jihadist groups in Syria.
The IHH is known as a tool of Turkish intelligence agency MİT and has been supported by the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which granted the organization special privileges for raising funds. Thanks to the political cover from the government, the IHH managed to escape legal punishment when it faced multiple counterterrorism investigations in Turkey in the past.
The activities of the IHH focus on several provinces of Nepal, especially in Province No. 1, Province No. 2 and Lumbini province. It has established mosques, madrasas, orphanages and Islamic centers in several cities including the capital city Kathmandu. It seems the IHH has taken a special interest in places like Sunsari that are close to the Indian border.
The ISN’s connection to Turkey’s radical Islamists is not only limited to the IHH. It was also listed as a member of an organization called the Union of NGOs of the Islamic World (İslam Dünyası Sivil Toplum Kuruluşları Birliği, or İDSB), a front outfit for Turkish paramilitary group SADAT.
SADAT is run by Adnan Tanrıverdi, a former chief military advisor to President Erdoğan who helped organize jihadist groups in Turkey and abroad, provided military training and offered counseling on military and security logistics. The ISN is listed as member No. 287 in the İDSB and was officially registered as such on January 23, 2015. A review of events and conferences shows that ISN officials frequently attended meetings organized by the İDSB.
Turkish government’s development agency TIKA is also one of the sponsors of ISN activities in Nepal.
Ali Fuat Yılmazer, former head of the Turkish police intelligence section that specializes in radical religious groups, testified in court on August 16, 2016 that “the IHH campaigns are designed to provide aid for jihadists engaged in terrorism around the world and supply medical aid, funding, logistics and human resources for jihadists.”
According to investigative reports prepared by the Turkish Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), an al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkish police officer who gunned down the Russian ambassador in December 2016 in the Turkish capital of Ankara had transferred money to the IHH.