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U.S., Saudi Arabia join to freeze group's assets

Paul O'Neill
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill called the joint U.S.-Saudi operation "a sign of the growing strength of the anti-terror coalition."  

From Kelly Wallace
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and Saudi Arabia have acted jointly for the first time to freeze assets suspected of supporting terrorist activities, blocking the funds of a Saudi-based Islamic group's offices in Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill announced Monday.

O'Neill accused the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation of diverting charitable monies to terrorism.

"Few deceits are more reprehensible than the act of collecting charity from well-intentioned donors and then diverting those funds to support hatred and cruelty," O'Neill said. "Organizations that pervert the name of charity are an affront to us all, and we will find them, expose them and shut them down."

O'Neill called the joint U.S.-Saudi operation "a sign of the growing strength of the anti-terror coalition, appropriate to mark the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks."

Before the announcement, a U.S. official said the branch offices of Al Haramain in Somalia and Bosnia "are clearly linked to terrorist financing."

The organization had no immediate comment.

The Bush administration alleges the foundation's Somalia office is linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network and a Somalia terrorist group, Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI), and that its Bosnia branch is tied to an Egyptian terrorist group, Al-Gama'at Al-Islamiyya.

It isn't clear on how much money the administration believes the foundation allegedly may have passed to terrorists.

The administration alleges that over the past few years, the foundation's Somalia office has funneled money to AIAI by "disguising" monies as "if they were intended for orphanage projects or Islamic school and mosque construction," a U.S. official said.

The organization, the official said, also has hired members of the alleged terrorist group.




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