- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

CHICAGO (AP) An Islamic charity and its director were charged with perjury yesterday and accused of supporting terrorists, including a man who reportedly tried to acquire nuclear weapons for Osama bin Laden.

Benevolence International Foundation's executive director, Enaam M. Arnaout, has had a relationship with bin Laden and key associates "dating back more than a decade," according to an affidavit filed with the complaint.

Mr. Arnaout, 39, was arrested yesterday morning at his home in suburban Justice on charges that he and his charity made false statements in a lawsuit against the government.

The government complaint includes reports that the foundation sponsored Mamdouh Salim, a bin Laden associate, on a trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Salim, the affidavit says, had at one time attempted to acquire nuclear and chemical weapons for the al Qaeda terrorist organization.

"The complaint alleges Benevolence International Foundation was supporting violence secretly," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said.

The foundation, one of two Chicago-area Islamic charities that has had assets frozen by the government, says it has nothing to do with terrorism.

But the government says that Mr. Arnaout had known bin Laden since the mid-1980s. A March 19 raid on a Benevolence International office in Bosnia turned up photos of bin Laden in Afghanistan as well photos of Mr. Arnaout holding several weapons. Those photos probably dated to the 1980s, the affidavit said.

Informants also said that Mr. Arnaout at one time handled money for bin Laden, the government said. A cooperating witness said that the organization was used in the early 1990s by bin Laden to transfer money to bank accounts of relief organizations that also supplied funds to terrorists.

While living in Pakistan, Mr. Arnaout let one of bin Laden's wives stay at his apartment, which showed bin Laden trusted him, says the government.

The group's headquarters in suburban Palos Hills was raided by federal agents on Dec. 14 and its assets were frozen. Federal officials said the charity was suspected of involvement with terrorist groups.

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