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Monday, June 7, 2010

Charity That Received Millions From U.S. Denies Terrorism Links; INTELWIRE Responds With Documentation

Yemeni government official Hamoud Hattar, left, and Al Qaeda-linked cleric Abdul Majid Zindani at an October 2009 Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) event in Yemen. Hattar on June 7 announced that Yemen will not extradite Awlaki to the United States.

By J.M. Berger

Updated June 23, 2010

The U.S. Department of Labor gave millions of dollars to a joint venture that included a Yemeni charity with extensive links to Al Qaeda.

At least $3.5 million was allocated by the Labor Department to fund a three-year partnership between the Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW), based in Yemen, and CHF International, a Maryland-based foundation, to fight child labor and child trafficking starting in fiscal year 2008.

The money was provided through a grant by the Labor Department's Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking (OCFT), according to a Labor Department press release, the agency's Web site and Middle Eastern news sources (link, link).

Wanted fugitive and radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar Awlaki served as a vice president for the organization during the 1990s. Awlaki is also believed to be associated with Al Qaeda (link). Awlaki's name is listed on an IRS Form 990 filed by the Charitable Society for Social Welfare for an now-defunct U.S. branch of the organization. Click here to read the CSSW tax form, which is a public record. Awlaki is listed as vice president on page 4 of the document.

CSSW spokesman Jamal Al-Haddi denied that the organization was connected to the Yemeni CSSW and denied that Awlaki ever worked for the Yemen branch of the organization. He told INTELWIRE in an e-mail that "CSSW has no branches outside Republic of Yemen. No official or unofficial branch of CSSW in the United States."

However CSSW's own Web site, in an archived page found on, shows that in 2003 CSSW listed contact information for branches in Brooklyn, Detroit and San Diego. The 990 form shows that CSSW had directors in all three cities, including Awlaki in San Diego, whose listed address is the Ar-Ribat mosque. Two of the September 11 hijackers attended that mosque while Awlaki was imam there. The archived link was provided by Evan Kohlmann, a senior investigator with the NEFA Foundation.

The U.S.-based organization claims on its tax form that it provides services and support for orphans in Yemen, just as the Sana-based CSSW does. According to additional tax documents obtained by the NEFA Foundation, CSSW intitially claimed it was not related to CSSW in Yemen in an IRS 1023 filing. But the charity's attorney, Ronald Rose, later admitted, in response to IRS questions, that the two organizations were closely linked. According to Rose:

In general, the distributions of funds raised by this charity will not go directly to individuals…to provide assistance for people who have been victimized by the civil wars in Yemen and Somalia… A similar charitable organization exists in the nation of Yemen, whose goals are the same. In many cases, application for benefits will be submitted through the organization in Yemen and contributed funds will be routed through this organization to the ultimate recipients. The role of the charitable organization in Yemen will be to act as an agent or facilitator for the distribution of benefits from the Society.

The Brooklyn branch of CSSW was the subject of an FBI terrorism financing investigation in 2003, five years prior to the Department of Labor grant approval. Al-Haddi did not respond to a question on this issue. The terrorism financing investigation was known as "Black Bear." Click here to read a court filing which provides some details of the investigation.

The filing was made by the defense team for Numan Maflahi, a Yemeni-born U.S. citizen who was convicted of lying to federal agents in a terrorism financing investigation. Click here for a New York Times story about the conviction. Click here for an Associated Press story on the investigation of CSSW.

The Washington Post reported in 2008 that CSSW was founded by Abdul Majid Al Zindani, a veteran of the jihad against the Soviet Union and its civil war aftermath. Zindani was an associate of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, according to published reports and exclusive documents obtained by INTELWIRE. Zindani has been designated as a member or associate of Al Qaeda by both the U.S. government and the United Nations.

Documents filed in a U.S. terrorism prosecution state that the Yemeni government considered the Al Iman University, run by Zindani, "as a 'nest for terrorism' that exports and propagates terrorism." Click here to read the document. Awlaki lectured at the University, according to the Washington Post and other sources.

Al-Haddi denied that Zindani had ever played any role in the organization. Neither Awlaki or Zindani has "never have been part of CSSW either as founders, members of Managerial Boards, employees, consultants volunteers or any position in CSSW," Al-Haddi wrote in an email. When asked if CSSW had requested a correction from Washington Post, he said that he had not but intended to.

However, the CSSW Web site again seems to contradict Al-Haddi's statement.

CSSW's Web site contains stories on a 2009 "Orphan's Festival" event featuring Zindani as a featured speaker in a central role. Zindani is named on the page, which also features a photograph of the cleric at the center dias of the event. Click here for the original page in Arabic, and click here for a cached copy of the the page. The event was also extensively covered in the organization's newsletter. A cached copy of the story may be viewed by clicking here.

When asked about the photos, Al-Haddi said that Zindani's presence at the 2009 festival was simply as an attendee due to Zindani's participation in the Yemeni government in 1990. He also suggested that Zindani was only one of 500 participants, and played no role at the conference.

However, photos of the event, found on an Arabic Web site, show Zindani seated prominently in the front row of the event and handing out awards from the stage. The CSSW Web site additionally describes Zindani as a speaker at the event.

In several photos, Zindani appears with another speaker at the event, Judge Hamoud Hattar, who in June announced that Yemen will not extradite Anwar Awlaki to the United States. Hattar, ironically, has gained a measure of fame for his "deradicalization" efforts with Yemeni extremists in prison.

Yemeni government official Hamoud Hattar, left, and Al Qaeda-linked cleric Abdul Majid Zindani at an October 2009 Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) event in Yemen.

Also at the event was Sheikh Aed Al Qarni, who can be seen in this video calling on Allah to "destroy the Jews" and praising jihadists attacking American forces in Iraq.

Sheikh Aed Al Qarni at an October 2009 Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) event in Yemen.

The CSSW Web site lists partner organizations including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Qatar Charitable Society, both of which are believed by the U.S. government to be Al Qaeda financing vehicles. The U.S. alleges that IIRO helped finance the Manila-based Bojinka plot to blow up U.S. airliners in 1995. According to an Al Qaeda informant, Osama bin Laden has stated that Qatar Charitable Society funds were used to pay for an attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek, also in 1995.

This story has been substantially updated with CSSW denials and with additional documentation which supports the story.

Al-Haddi's letter to INTELWIRE is included below in its entirety. Based on the evidence laid out in detail above, INTELWIRE stands by its story. Additional documentation is being sought and will be posted when it becomes available.

Dear Mr. Berger,

First of all, I would like to introduce myself. I'm Dr. Jamal Al-Haddi, the Program Manager of ACCESS-Plus Program working for Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW).

ACCESS-Plus Program is the a program that receives US Department of Labor fund to combat Exploitive Child Labor, Worst Forms of Child Labor and Child Trafficking in Yemen. This Program is the program that you denoted in your article in the index page of your website; .

Herein, I would like to reveal some facts about Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW).

The Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) is a national non-faith, non-governmental organization (NGO) established in Sana'a, Yemen, in March 1990. CSSW works at the grassroots level, and seeks to provide an effective charity model to promote sustainable, economic and social development through relief and development programs, in addition to emergency relief. Its programs cover sustainable development, orphan care, education, health, family, social welfare, population, food security, poverty alleviation, environment, and working with certain groups, including those who are poor, and women, youth, children, refugees, the disabled and the elderly.

CSSW has a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (Special Category). It is also an NGO member of United Nation Department of Public Information UN DPI. It also has a membership status in many national institutions, such as the Supreme Women Council, Mother & Childhood High Council, the National Population Council, Social Fund for Development, Social Care Fund, Public Works Project, Disaster Preparedness NGO Forum, Poverty Reduction Strategy for NGOs Network Group, and Yemeni NGOs Network. Meanwhile, CSSW partners with UN agencies, in particular, U.N. Capital Development Fund, International Committee of the Red Cross, WFP, UNDP, UNHCR, UNFPA, WHO and UNICEF, UNV in addition to international organizations such as CHF International, Futures Group International (American NGOs). It has also partnerships through group of projects and programs with, World Bank, Canada Embassy, Japanese Embassy, US Embassy, British Embassy, European Commission, Dutch Embassy, etc.

The current CSSW activities are developmental projects that target the poor and needy people in urban and rural communities. The projects aim to alleviate poverty. Within the NGO networking group on poverty reduction that sponsors poor families, CSSW is responsible for monthly food distribution.

CSSW also implements family development projects targeting poor women and families through micro-credit, handicraft projects, including work with leather products, orphan care and a sponsorship program. CSSW currently sponsors about 25,312 orphans and street children.

CSSW's Smart woman Centers in Sana'a and other governorates organize training courses all over the year in manual work and skills that might be particularly helpful for women. The courses span a wide range of topics that include computer technology, sewing, embroidering, and carpet weaving, in addition to literacy programs, educational sessions, English language courses, and first-aid courses. CSSW has ongoing programs in public health, reproductive health, family planning and health care for refugees, Combating Females Genitalia Malformation (FGM) Projects, Combating Early Marriage Project.

CSSW also provides its health services through 22 facilities in 13 governorates, outreach health activities, an onchocerciasis (River Blindness) control program in four governorates, and by conducting studies and field surveys, in cooperation with UN agencies and international relief organizations.
Regarding allegations stated in your article, here is the response for them:

CSSW is a non-faith based organization which provides its services to all categories regardless sex, ethnicity, color or religion inside and outside Yemen according its constitution. For example, CSSW provide services to Muslim and non Muslim Ethiopian Oromos refugees in addition to Somali refugees who displaced to Yemen. It also used to assist poor Jewish families in Raida Town- Amran Governorate.

All information in this article is baseless and fabricated.

According to official documents of registration and elections of CSSW which was established in March 1990, Abdulmajeed Al-Zendani or Anwar Al-Awlaki never have been part of CSSW either as founders, members of Managerial Boards, employees, consultants volunteers or any position in CSSW. (The official registration documents are available upon request and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor keep the original copies of them).

CSSW since its foundation in 1990 used to work with local, regional and international partners. CSSW works with all UN agencies in Yemen including Unicef, UNDP, UNFPA, UNV, UNHCR it a member of United Nations Economic Council & Social Council (ECOSOC), it is also a member UN Department of Pubic Information (DPI). It has also partnerships with Japanese Embassy, Dutch Embassy, British Embassy, and many other partners.

One of the values that CSSW works in, is transparency. CSSW annual reports used to be disseminated through booklets and internet. The CSSW financial system was checked from international experts and then the NICRA was signed and approved United State Department of Labor.

If any one needs any information about CSSW, it can be provided simply through the official email at

According to media rules, we call upon posting CSSW response in the same page and in same area of your original article.

If you need any information related to CSSW, Please don't hesitate to contact me at my contacts below.

Best wishes,

Jamal Al-Haddi
ACCESS-Plus Program Manager
Alternative to Combat Child Labor through Education & Sustainable Services

UPDATE 6/23/2010: On June 23, Jamal Al-Haddi gave the following responses to the questions cited in the artice. After careful consideration of these responses relative to the documentation above, INTELWIRE still stands by its story. However, additional documentation is being sought in order to fully clarify any issue which remains disputed.

Q: Just so I understand, you are specifically denying that Anwar Awlaki worked for CSSW as reported by the Washington Post and other major media outlets?

A. Yes, Anwar Al-Awlaki had never been a part of CSSW as mentioned in my comments. He wasn't a member of CSSW General Assembly. And for your information, CSSW managerial board including it president and vice president are selected through direct secret election from the General Assembly under supervision of Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. Minutes of meetings, and names of elected members are kept with the ministry.

Q: I have viewed and intend to publish with your letter the United States government tax form for the CSSW branch in the United States listing Anwar Awlaki as a vice president. Are you certain you wish to maintain your denial against that document?

CSSW has no braches out side Republic of Yemen. No official or unofficial branch of CSSW in the United States. I don't know from what source they concluded that CSSW has a branch and has a vice president for it!!

There are some associations have same name of CSSW in different parts of the world. For example, Charitable Society for Social Welfare (CSSW) based in Midwest has the same name of Yemen's CSSW. This society or any other society has nothing to do with CSSW-Yemen.

CSSW used to receive any unconditional fund or grants to use them in development of Yemeni community.

Q:In your letter, you say that Abdul-Majid Zindani has no link to CSSW, not even as a volunteer or a consultant. Do you deny then that Zindani played a central role in CSSW’s October 2009 Seventh Orphans Festival?

CSSW has periodic Orphan Festivals since its establishment as it sponsors more than 25,000 orphans. ALL these Festival are conducted under the patronage of H.E. President Ali Abdulla Saleh, the President of the Republic of Yemen. More than (500) persons attend or participate in each festival. The attendance of these festival which includes different activities, is open for officials or dignities or personalities who would like to participate, regardless their political affiliation or any other considerations. Some of those festivals were partially sponsored by international agencies such as Unicef.

Zendani hasn't any role in the 7th festival. He only attended the festival as he was the member of Yemeni Presidency Council after unification of Yemen in 1990.

Q: The Washington Post first reported that CSSW was founded by Zindani and that it employed Awlaki. Have you written a similar letter to them? Did they print a correction?

No. not yet, however, we are intending to do so. And I'm sure that they will correct this false information.

Q: Do you deny that CSSW works as partners with the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Qatar Charitable Society?

CSSW used to deal only with organizations and entities that are recognized in their original countries and have good reputation regardless they are Islamic of non-Islamic. CSSW used to deal with Islamic Relief Organization and Qatar Charity like any other agency such as WFP, UNDP, UNHCR, UNFPA, WHO , UNICEF, UNV, World Bank, etc.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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