German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday received assurances from Qatar that it does not provide financial support to the Islamic State as European leaders stepped up diplomatic efforts to strengthen an alliance to combat the jihadist group.

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel

“Qatar has never and would never sponsor terrorist organizations,” the Emir, Sheik Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, told a press conference after holding talks with Merkel in Berlin.

Qatar has repeatedly been accused of providing financial backing to extremist groups including the Islamic State, which has taken control of vast swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months.

Merkel said she had openly discussed the claims at talks with Tamim and that he had “credibly assured” her that reports his country had been funding terrorist groups were false.

“I do not have any reason to doubt the Emir’s word,” she said, adding that both Qatar and Germany stood against “the brutality and intolerance” of the Islamic State.

The 34-year-old emir’s two-day visit is his first to Germany – Europe’s biggest economy – since he took over from his father as Qatar’s ruler a year ago.

In addition to claims about Qatar aiding terrorist groups, the small Gulf state has also faced calls from fellow Arab states to cut its support for Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

Last week, Qatar bowed to pressure and agreed to expel the Muslim Brotherhood members from its soil.

The emir’s talks in Berlin come ahead of a meeting in Paris between French President Francois Hollande and King Abdullah II of Jordan, which neighbours both Iraq and Syria.

Both Jordan and Qatar are among the 10 Arab states that have pledged support for a US-led coalition of about 40 nations to end the threat posed by Islamic state militants.

Germany and France have also backed the fight against the jihadist group, with Berlin last month breaking a national taboo about sending arms to international conflict zones by providing military equipment to the Kurds battling the Islamic State in northern Iraq.

The Jordanian monarch is a staunch US ally. But within Islamist circles in Jordan there is a degree of support for the Sunni extremists. Hundreds of Jordanians are believed to have joined the ranks of the jihadists.

There is also evidence of both young German and French citizens and residents travelling to the Middle East to join the Islamic State’s goal of creating a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

On Monday, Germany began its first trial of an alleged Islamic State fighter when a 20-year-old German-born Muslim appeared in a Frankfurt court charged with being a member of a terrorist group.

Last week, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced a ban on all of the group’s activities in Germany.

He said 400 Islamists are known to have left Germany for the conflict zone in Iraq and Syria, with many of them heading to areas controlled by the Islamic State. More than 40 are thought to have been killed, while more than 100 have since returned to Germany.

About 930 French citizens or residents were fighting alongside jihadist groups in Syria or Iraq, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Tuesday.

The Islamic State has launched a new public relations campaign with its media centre, al Hayet, releasing a new video threatening the United States as Washington steps up airstrikes against the al-Qaeda splinter group.

The video, produced in a style similar to a trailer for a blockbuster action movie, shows Islamist fighters in fatigues targeting and blowing up military vehicles, as well as clips of injured US soldiers.

The 52-second video ends with the words: “Flames of War: The fighting has just begun,” followed by “coming soon.”

On the ground in Iraq, meanwhile, more than 50 Islamic State fighters were killed in two air raids north of Baghdad.

An airstrike by Iraqi warplanes on the town of al-Duluiyeh, 80 kilometres north of the capital, killed 26 members of the organization and destroyed six vehicles, Iraqi security officials said.

Among those killed was a commander involved in the killing of hundreds of soldiers taken captive at Camp Speicher near Tikrit in June, several days into the Islamic State’s lightning offensive across northern Iraq.

The Sunni extremist group at the time said it had killed 1,700 Shiite troops, and published photographs of mass executions of young men in civilian clothing.

Another 28 fighters were killed in an air raid on a camp being used by the group, army officials said.

Meanwhile, parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri said that the assembly supported airstrikes coordinated by the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition.

“We are anxious that the airstrikes be accurate so as to avoid harming civilians or infrastructure,” al-Jabouri told reporters at the parliament building.

“It is essential that operations against [the Islamic State] are clearly coordinated with the Iraqi government. Sovereignty is as important to us as security,” he added.

The US on Wednesday said it had no evidence the group is actively planning an attack on its soil.

“Though we know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present, we know that ISIL is prepared to kill innocent Americans they encounter because they are Americans – in a public and depraved manner,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson told a panel in the House of Representatives.
GNA

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