Thursday, November 8, 2001

President Bush yesterday expanded the war on terrorism with a raid by federal agents on U.S. businesses tied to a financial network controlled by Osama bin Laden, while foreign authorities moved to freeze the assets of terrorists abroad.
“Ours is not a war just of soldiers and aircraft; it is a war fought with diplomacy, by the investigations of law enforcement, by gathering intelligence, and by cutting off the terrorists’ money,” Mr. Bush said at a press conference at the Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network center at Tysons Corner.
“We put the world’s financial institutions on notice: If you do business with terrorists, if you support them or sponsor them, you will not do business with the United States of America,” he said.
Federal agents, led by the FBI and U.S. Customs Service, raided financial-service businesses and seized records of monetary transactions at nine locations in Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio and at two storefront operations in Northern Virginia. One man was arrested and another is being sought.
The president’s global financial crackdown received wide-ranging support, with only Lebanon defying U.S. demands to freeze the assets of the Lebanese group Hezbollah saying it did not believe Hezbollah was a terrorist organization.
“There is a difference between terrorism and resistance to military units occupying our country. Any list that does not include [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] is not taken as very objective in the Arab world,” Ambassador Farid Abboud told Reuters in a telephone interview, referring to the Arab belief that Mr. Sharon is a terrorist for his role in the killings of Palestinian civilians.
Hezbollah, which led the armed resistance to the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon from the early 1980s until the Jewish state made a unilateral withdrawal in 2000, continues to attack Israeli troops. It has since seen 11 of its members elected to the Lebanese parliament.
In yesterday’s raids, Mohamed M. Hussein was arrested in Boston on charges of running an illegal money transmitting business. His partner, Liban M. Hussein, was being sought.
Authorities said they ran Barakaat North America Inc. in Dorchester, Mass., a foreign money exchange, without a state license moving more than $2 million through a U.S. bank from January through September.
Sam Osagiede, a lawyer who represented Mohamed M. Hussein when he applied for a business license, said the two men had no connection with a terrorist network. “They are not involved with that,” he told reporters. The lawyer said Liban M. Hussein is out of the country.
The two Virginia businesses were identified as AADM Mortgage al-Barakaat and the Iftiin Bookstore and Xawilaadda al-Amal, both located in the Baileys Crossroads area of Fairfax County. The businesses cater to the area’s Somali community. FBI and Customs agents, armed with search warrants, inspected several boxes of documents at both sites.
The U.S. raid was part of a global investigation that saw two Arab financiers detained and questioned by Swiss police. Assets also were frozen by authorities in Somalia, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Bush said federal agents shut down “two major elements” of the terrorists’ international financial network and, acting on “solid and credible evidence,” had blocked the U.S. assets of 62 individuals and organizations connected with the two terrorist-supporting financial networks, known as al Taqua and al-Barakaat.
Authorities believe tens of millions of dollars were funneled each year from money Somali residents had sent home to impoverished relatives through al-Barakaat, some of which generally about 5 percent was skimmed and diverted to bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
The money, authorities said, was wired to overseas accounts in increments of less than $10,000 to avoid detection by U.S. bank regulators.
Many of the wire transfers, authorities said, went through Chase Bank in New York and were arranged over the telephone.
The White House said al Taqua and al-Barakaat maintain offices in 40 countries worldwide, including the United States. They were described as informal, largely unregulated financial networks sometimes called hawalas that funneled money to bin Laden’s al Qaeda terrorist network through companies and nonprofit organizations that the terrorists operate.
Mr. Bush described al Taqua as an association of offshore banks and financial-management firms that have helped al Qaeda shift money around the world. He called al-Barakaat a group of money-wiring and communication companies owned by a friend and supporter of bin Laden.
“Al Taqua and al-Barakaat raise funds for al Qaeda. They manage, invest and distribute those funds. They provide terrorist supporters with Internet service, secure telephone communications and other ways of sending messages and sharing information,” Mr. Bush said.
“They even arrange for the shipment of weapons. They present themselves as legitimate businesses, but they skim money from every transaction for the benefit of terrorist organizations. They enable the proceeds of crime in one country to be transferred to pay for terrorist acts in another,” he said.
Mr. Bush said the two organizations used small storefront operations to conduct their business, but federal investigators had followed the money “to its center” to discover wealthy banks and sophisticated technology, “all at the service of mass murderers.”
“By shutting these networks down, we disrupt the murderers’ work.” he said.
In Mogadishu, Somalia, the chairman of the Al-Barakaat group vehemently denied the White House accusations.
“This is all lies,” Ahmed Nur Ali Jim’ale told the Associated Press in a telephone interview. “We are people who are hard working and have nothing to do with terrorists.”
Mr. Bush said the raid by federal authorities, assisted by international law enforcement officials, also had interrupted al Qaeda’s communications and blocked important sources of funding for the terrorist organization.
“It provides us with valuable information and sends a clear message to global financial institutions: You are with us, or you’re with the terrorists. And if you’re with the terrorists, you will face the consequences,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Paul H. O’Neill, who attended the press conference, said federal investigators have so far blocked $24 million in assets in this country belonging to Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia and al Qaeda. He said 112 countries have blocking orders in force, and nations around the world have frozen $43 million in assets.
“But we will not be finished until we have dismantled the financial network of the terrorists,” he said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who also was at the press conference, said U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373 requires member states to prevent the financing of terrorist acts, to criminalize the provision of funds of terrorists, and to freeze the assets of terrorists and their supporters.
He said more than 130 countries had committed to implement the resolution.

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