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5 Suspected of Assisting Al Qaeda Held in Malawi

June 24, 2003|From Associated Press

BLANTYRE, Malawi — Authorities in Malawi, working with the CIA, have arrested five men suspected of helping funnel money to Al Qaeda, officials in the southern African nation said Monday.

The joint operation came in a nation that has not been a significant focus of investigations into Osama bin Laden's terror group -- though other parts of Africa have been major staging grounds for Al Qaeda operations.

Malawi's National Intelligence Bureau said it arrested the five foreigners Sunday night in the southern city of Blantyre with assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency. The men are suspected of running charities that channeled money to Al Qaeda operatives in Africa and elsewhere.

A CIA spokesman in Washington declined to comment.

Malawi's government is seeking to deport the men but has declined to discuss the allegations in detail. A lawyer for the five says they are innocent and is trying to block their deportation.

"We are dealing with matters of state security," said Primrose Chimwaza, a state prosecutor. "The government received information that the suspects are involved in global terrorism."

Authorities said the men included Mahmud Sardar Issa, a Sudanese who heads a charitable organization called the Islamic Zakat Fund Trust in Blantyre. Another was identified as Fahad Ral Bahli of Saudi Arabia, the director of the Malawian branch of Registered Trustees of the Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Special Committee on Relief.

Two of the men were from Turkey and one was an Islamic scholar from Kenya, authorities said. The state prosecutor said they would be deported to the countries where they resided before arriving in Malawi.

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