WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration cracked down on Osama bin Laden's multimillion-dollar financial networks at home and abroad Wednesday, closing businesses in four states, detaining U.S. suspects and urging allies to help choke off money supplies in 40 nations.
''By shutting these networks down, we disrupt the murderers' work,'' President Bush said, announcing the first major dragnet of companies, organizations and people suspected of aiding terrorists from U.S. soil.
Across Europe and from coast to coast in America, police conducted raids designed to unravel two Islamic financial networks accused of laundering and raising money and providing logistical support to bin Laden's al-Qaida organization.
Investigators said they believe tens of millions of dollars a year flowed overseas through the Al-Barakaat network of stores, groceries and money exchanges, much of it from funds that Somalis living in America send home to relatives. Some of that money was skimmed for use by al-Qaida and other terrorist networks, investigators said.
In Mogadishu, Somalia, the chair of the Al-Barakaat group, which operates in 40 nations including the United States, vehemently denied the White House allegations.
''This is all lies,'' Ahmed Nur Ali Jim'ale told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Dubai. ''We are people who are hard working and have nothing to do with terrorists.''
The second network, al Taqua, is a loosely organized band of companies in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas and Italy, the White House said. It is controlled by Youssef Nada, a naturalized Italian citizen, whose assets the United States wants frozen in overseas banks.
Acting on the United States' request, officials from Switzerland, Italy and Liechtenstein moved to block al Taqua assets. Nada and Ali Himmat, an Arab financier, were questioned by Swiss police for several hours before being released.
In all, the names of 62 entities and people were added to a list of suspected terrorist associates targeted by Bush in an executive order signed last month.
The earlier list included 88 groups or people whose assets had been frozen because of their ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
In coordinated raids Wednesday, Customs agents seized evidence and shut down Al-Barakaat companies in four cities: Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and Colum-bus, Ohio.
The Treasury Department froze assets of nine organizations and two people in the United States, most with links to Al-Barakaat.
In addition, FBI agents raided two Fairfax County businesses seeking evidence of terrorist transactions.
The companies cater to the Somali community in northern Virginia, not far from the Treasury Department office where Bush announced the crackdown.
In Boston, Mohamed M. Hussein and Liban M. Hussein were charged with running an illegal money-transmitting business, according to a criminal complaint. Officials said Mohamed Hussein was in custody.
The two men ran Barakaat North America Inc. in Dorchester, Mass., a foreign money exchange, without a state license, according to a U.S. Customs Service affidavit. The business moved more than $2 million through a U.S. bank from January through September, the government said.
The raids shined a national spotlight on seemingly nondescript storefronts.
U.S. Postal Service worker Sunday Draper, who delivers mail to an Ohio business raided by federal agents, said, ''It's scary to think they may have ties to terrorists.''
Also watching federal agents seize evidence from Barakaat Enterprise in Columbus, Hassan Ali, 20, a Somalian who has lived in the United States for a decade, said Somalians often used the business to send money to their relatives in Africa.
''They have no other way to send money,'' said Ali.
A man was briefly detained in Seattle after federal agents raided a Muslim grocery store containing a wire-transfer operation.
Five organizations and one person, Garad Jama, were targeted in Minnesota. Agents detained at least one man.
''Today, we take another important action to expose the enemy to the light and to disrupt its ability to threaten America and innocent life,'' Bush said.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said: ''Money is the oxygen of terrorism.''
The event was designed to show progress in the broad anti-terrorism campaign, countering doubts about the U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan and the administration's response to anthrax scares.
The United States also asked allies to freeze assets on terrorist-aiding organizations based in Switzerland, Somalia, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates, a hub of Islamic financial activity, seized assets and records of Al-Barakaat
The United States has blocked $26 million in assets of the Taliban and al-Qaida; an additional $17 million has been blocked by other countries, bringing the worldwide total to $43 million, a Treasury spokeswoman said.
To date, 112 countries have blocking orders in force.
© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us