An Islamic charity with ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban is now collaborating with an unlikely new partner: UNICEF, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund.
UNICEF has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi charity of massive scope that keeps branches in more than 20 countries and has over 100 offices worldwide.
According to UNICEF, it will be teaming with the charity’s domestic Saudi branch to “promote children’s rights, health, equality and education,” in the oil-rich kingdom — but the organization has been doing more than just charity work.
The U.S. Treasury Department has designated the IIRO’s branches in the Philippines and Indonesia as terrorist entities for funding and supporting terrorist groups that have killed hundreds in East Asia. The Philippine branch was founded by Usama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifah, and has long had ties to Al Qaeda.
The U.N. itself says that both the Indonesian and Philippine branches of IIRO are tied to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and has singled them out for an asset freeze, arms embargo and travel ban on members of the groups.
But that hasn’t stopped the U.N. from recognizing the Saudi office as a legitimate relief group, nor has it stopped UNICEF — or other U.N. agencies — from working with it in the past.
According to Chris de Bono, UNICEF’s chief of media, “UNICEF does not and will not engage with” the two East Asian branches. Its new partnership is with the main Saudi branch only, and UNICEF will coordinate relief primarily for children living within Saudi Arabia, de Bono said.
The U.S. government also noted the distinction between the head office and the international branches.
“We are monitoring the situation closely, but we also understand the difference between the IIRO main headquarters and its branches,” Carolyn Vadino, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., wrote in an e-mail to FOX News.
“It is the two branches in question that are designated and have ties to terrorists and at this time we have been assured that they are separate entities,” Vadino wrote.