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RESPONSE TO TERROR

U.S. Blocks Funds of 2 Charities Allegedly Tied to Terror

January 10, 2002|JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — The U.S. crackdown on charities suspected of having links to Osama bin Laden widened Wednesday as Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill blocked financial assets of two groups and accused them of "stealing from widows and orphans to fund Al Qaeda terrorism."

O'Neill identified the groups as the Afghan Support Committee and the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society. At a news conference at Treasury headquarters, he said the organizations were raising money under false pretenses.

"They were leading people to believe that they were giving money for good and worthy charitable purposes that compassionate people around the world would be inclined to give money to," O'Neill said. "In fact, they were taking these monies and feeding them into terrorist activities."

Neither organization is believed to have financial assets in the United States, Treasury officials said, but the move allows U.S. officials to freeze any assets that are found. It is unlikely that Americans have given a significant amount of money to the two organizations, officials said.

The Afghan Support Committee, O'Neill and other government officials said, was set up by Bin Laden and has offices in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

The group's finance chief, Abu Bakr Jaziri, also served as the head of organized fund-raising for Bin Laden, according to Treasury Department documents released Wednesday.

Jaziri collected money for Al Qaeda in Jalalabad through his role as local head of the Afghan charity group. Separately, he raised money from other private Afghan organizations by claiming the funds were for orphans and widows created by political strife in the region, the Treasury documents said. Jaziri later moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan, "where he continued to raise and transfer funds for Al Qaeda," one Treasury Department document said.

The other group, the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, is based in Kuwait and is affiliated with the Afghan Support Committee, Treasury officials said. The U.S. order applies only to the society's Pakistan operations.

Neither group could be reached for comment.

U.S. officials identified Abd Mushin Libi as the man who runs the Peshawar offices of both organizations and said he provided Bin Laden and other terrorists with facilities in that city near the Afghan border.

Libi also has carried money and messages on behalf of Bin Laden, the officials said.

Treasury officials also said the Pakistan office of the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society padded the number of orphans it claimed to care for by using names of orphans who had died or did not exist. Funds sent on their behalf were then funneled to Al Qaeda, officials said.

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