CONTROVERSIAL pseudo-humanitarian group the White Helmets are reported to have had their funding frozen by the US State Department.
A statement from the White Helmets expressed concern over the development, with the US accounting for almost one-third of its overall funding.
The US State Department, which had previously pledged long-term support for the group, said the arrangement is now “under active review” after President Donald Trump put a $200 million freeze on funding for recovery efforts in Syria in late March.
In an internal document, the US State Department said that without confirmation from the Trump administration to continue funding, the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs would initiate “shut down procedures on a rolling basis.”
The group was founded by former British intelligence officer James Le Mesurier in Istanbul in 2013, growing to an organisation of around 3,000 volunteers the same year.
Operating from hundreds of civil defence centres across the country, the White Helmets receive funding from the aid agencies of a number of western governments, including the UK Commonwealth Office and the United States Agency for International Development.
They claim to have saved 70,000 lives during the war on Syria and a Netflix documentary, White Helmets, won an Oscar in 2017.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert recently expressed gratitude for the “incredible work” the White Helmets do “on behalf of the US government and all the coalition forces.”
However, critics have accused the White Helmets of aiding terrorist organisations, operating only in parts of Syria held by jihadist militants. They claim its offices are often found next to those of groups affiliated to al-Nusra Front, accusing them of working in tandem.
Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters recently hit out at the group after he claimed they were using Saudi money in lobbying him to publicly endorse them. During a live performance, he accused the White Helmets of being a “fake organisation that exists only to create propaganda for jihadists and terrorists.”
The most recent controversy saw the White Helmets accused of staging a chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma last month which led to missile attacks from the US, Britain and France.
Since then the case appears to have collapsed with 17 eyewitnesses, including hospital doctors, testifying that there was no evidence of such an attack.
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