Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

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Following the money trail behind the WTC bomb

February 26, 2013

The financial evidence points back to Osama Bin Laden in the World Trade Center bombing that killed six people 20 years ago today.

In Modern Jihad, Loretta Napoleoni wrote that the WTC bombing mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, said the World Trade Center bombing cost $15,000.  This was not verified during Yousef’s trial because it wasn’t necessary to establish his guilt.

And who provided the $15,000?  John Miller, the ABC reporter who once interviewed Osama Bin Laden, wrote this in his book The Cell:

… Ibrahim el-Gabrowny had met with bin Laden a year before the bombing and investigators believe that at least a portion of the $20,000 bin Laden gave el-Gabrowny during that meeting—ostensibly for [Rabbi Meir Kahane’s assassin El-Sayyid] Nosair’s defense—was spent on materials used in the World Trade Center bomb.

Other sources say that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Yousef’s uncle and the architect of the 9/11 attacks, provided the bomb money for his nephew.

In any case, it wasn’t enough cash to carry out Yousef’s vision.  FBI official Dale Watson testified five years after the bombing that, “After his capture in 1995, Ramzi Yousef conceded to investigators that a lack of funding forced his group’s hand in plotting the destruction of the World Trade Center. Running short of money, the plotters could not assemble a bomb as large as they had originally intended. The timing of the attack was also rushed by a lack of finances.”

Al Qaeda would not make the mistake of shortchanging its next attack against the World Trade Center eight years later.

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The top 5 terror finance films of all time

February 24, 2013

Thrillers about terrorism focus on adventure, explosions, and tension; while they may depict specific terrorist attacks and the logistics behind them, such movies rarely address the financing.  Meanwhile, movies about bank robberies, jewel heists, and corporate malfeasance show how bad guys finance themselves, but these financial crime films tend to boil down to greed, or the acquisition of money for personal use, rather than raising money for broader social objectives.

We are left with a handful of movies dealing with the actual financing of terrorism or rebel insurgencies, and those that do often address the subject briefly.  Although it’s tough to find movies that incorporate both elements, it’s worth the investment.  These five movies help illuminate important concepts in terrorist financing in ways that news articles and scholarly research cannot, and in ways that simple bank heist movies can’t either.  They’re also sure to entertain you along the way.

By the way, it took a long time to compile this short list, so please acknowledge Money Jihad if this ranking is reproduced elsewhere.

  1. “Casino Royale”—Le Chiffre is a bankroller to the world’s terrorists.  But he is being pursued by terrorists who want access to their funds immediately.  Le Chiffre sets up a high stakes poker game in Montenegro to get more money and restore his credibility with his terrorist clients.  His rival?  None other than James Bond, 007, who enters the match with money fronted by the British government.  If Bond wins, the international financing of terrorism will be setback; if he looses, the government will have directly funded terrorists.  While the men play their game, is Bond’s love interest being forced to work for an unnamed terrorist group in Algeria?This film shows how skill, charm, and a little bit of luck by Britain’s best spy can triumph over shadowy but well-connected forces behind the international financing of terrorism.
  2. “The Path to 9/11”—The television miniseries (especially Part I) that aired on ABC in 2006 includes an ensemble cast and multiple story lines, one of which focuses on the money trail that led U.S. intelligence to recognize the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s.  The trail begins with the cunning bomb maker, Ramzi Yousef, who bombs the World Trade Center and becomes and international fugitive.  From the Philippines to Pakistan, Yousef works on his explosives, causing mayhem wherever he goes.  He’s planning a massive attack–bombs detonating aboard flights, but to do it he needs money—real money—for materials, equipment, electronics, and men.  His comrade tells him about a Saudi millionaire who can help. Meanwhile, tired of going after “small fish,” the FBI’s John O’Neill and other senior members of the U.S. counter-terrorism community try to find out who’s funding Yousef.  The U.S. gets a nervous informant who is about to depart with Yousef on a trip to Afghanistan, where Yousef says they can meet his financier, whom he calls “the tall one.” The money chase story line earns this miniseries its place on the list, but even without it, the movie is a devastating portrayal of bureaucracy and politics getting in the way of mid and lower level agents who are trying to stop Bin Laden 9/11.  This important film is unfairly maligned by liberals who have flooded the Internet with an endless stream of angry, overly politicized criticism.
  3. “The Long Good Friday”—Unbeknownst to an English mafia boss, one of his lieutenants delivers cash to the Irish Republican Army, but skims a little for himself along the way.  The lieutenant ends up dead, and the boss, played by Ed Hoskins, and his loved ones wind up the target of a seemingly inexplicable bombing campaign. It turns that out another of his key gang members, a real estate developer who employs Irish workers, was the one responsible for the ongoing payments to the IRA.  While the bombs are exploding, Hoskins is trying to complete a major business deal with an American investor played by Eddie Constantine (who also appears in another noteworthy terrorist financing movie, “The Third Generation,” as a West German businessman who funds terrorism in order to sell equipment to security forces fighting it.)  His best advisers tell him to back down, but Hoskins thinks he can go toe-to-toe against one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.  It’s a tense, exciting film, and it’s somewhat unique among movies for providing a glimpse into how front companies can be used to fund terrorism. Hoskins was widely praised for his performance, and Helen Miren who plays his wife is absolutely superlative.
  4. “Baader Meinhof Complex”—The movie portrays the terrorist acts committed by the Red Army Faction, or Baader-Meinhof group, in West Germany in the late 1960s and ’70s.  The group also carried out bank robberies which they regarded as legitimate “expropriation” to finance the revolution—a common Marxist terrorist fundraising technique.  Ultimately the first generation of the Red Army Faction fell apart.  It’s a well-done film that illustrates how the terrorists’ search for bigger and better attacks ultimately destroys and shatters not just the lives of their victims, but their own lives too.
  5. “Nighthawks”—Wulfgar, an international terrorist mercenary—sets off a bomb in England, striking “a blow against British colonialism” in Northern Ireland.  But children are killed in the attack, and the IRA refuses to pay him.  Struggling to overcome a shortage of pay and his damaged reputation, Wulfgar gets plastic surgery and sets off for New York.  There he hopes he can launch a major terrorist attack that will be covered by the news media capital of the world, and prove his worth again to international terrorist organizations that would hire him again if he succeeds.  He is aided by “Shakka Kappour,” a ruthless Moroccan terrorist in her own right.  Only cop-on-the-beat Sylvester Stallone can stop them, with assistance from his partner Billy Dee Williams and counter-terrorist expert LeGard, who does as good a job as anybody since Col. Mathieu from “The Battle of Algiers” in getting inside the mind of terrorists to defeat them at their own game.  Explosions, dramatic tension, and great pacing earn this overlooked thriller a place in the top five.

Honorable mention:  “A Bullet for the General”–Chuncho (or sometimes Chucho) and his bandits traffic arms for General Elías, a rebel leader during the Mexican Revolution.  Chuncho is joined by “El Niño,” an American man with mysterious motives.  They conduct a good, old-fashioned train robbery, seize rifles from a military garrison after assassinating its commandant, and dispossess the richest man in San Miguel of his wealth.  The film may not be the best of the Italian produced “Zapata westerns” set during the Mexican Revolution which all touched on similar themes, but it is one is quite germane to how an insurgent movement is armed and financed.

A problem worth noting about terror finance movies is that about half of them are designed convince audiences that terrorism is an artificial phenomenon created and funded by capitalists to increase profits circuitously.  While movies in this mold such as “The Third Generation,” “Burn!” and “The International” are relevant to the subject of financing terrorism or a revolution, and are entertaining, they are based on fundamentally flawed premises about the nature of the threat and cannot be wholly recommended.

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Sharia banks that fund terrorism

January 7, 2013

The connections between ethical finance and violent extremism

The relationship is simple.  Jihadists know they can trust sharia-compliant banks to maintain their anonymity, not ask too many questions, and facilitate high-dollar transactions on behalf of their terrorist groups.  Some Islamic financial institutions, such as National Commercial Bank and Islami Bank Bangladesh, have taken the relationship a step farther by donating a portion of their bank profits in the form of zakat as an act of corporate “charity” to terrorist organizations, or in the case of Al Rajhi, through private zakat donations of leading bankers.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are key bases for these activities, but this is a global phenomenon.  Here’s Money Jihad’s short list of the worst offenders:

Al Rajhi Bank:  The Saudi financial institution has served as the sharia bank of choice for the world’s jihadists, including East Africa embassy bomber Mamduh Mahmud Salim, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and organizations like Indonesian Kompak and Al-Haramain.  Bank co-founder Sulaiman Al-Rajhi appeared on the infamous Golden Chain document of Al Qaeda financiers.  These allegations were reinforced by the recent U.S. Senate investigation into HSBC’s correspondent relationships.

Al Shamal Islamic Bank:  Osama Bin Laden co-founded the Al Shamal in Sudan and invested $50 million there.  During the 1990s and early 2000s, Al Qaeda distributed money to its cells through Al Shamal.  Funds passed through Al Shamal were used in preparation for terrorist attacks.

National Commercial Bank:  Offering conventional and sharia banking services, Saudi Arabia’s self-described first, largest, and most prominent bank is NCB.  Among other misdeeds, a Saudi audit revealed that NCB transferred $74 million in the 1990s as zakat through its charitable front organizations to Al Qaeda (see here, here, and here).  Khalid bin Mahfouz, the head of the bank, exploited libel laws to sue author Rachel Ehrenfeld in an effort to silence accusations about his role in financing terrorism.

Arab Bank:  This conventional bank in Jordan maintains a wholly-owned subsidiary (Islamic International Arab Bank PLC) that offers full-range sharia services.  Arab Bank has transferred money on behalf of Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP), a notorious French charity, to a known financial subunit of Hamas.  The Jordanian bank has paid out insurance benefits to families of suicide bombers for the Saudi Committee—another charity that funds Hamas.  Arab Bank has handled transactions for the Holy Land Foundation, whose leaders now sit behind bars for financing terrorism.  It has been the subject of American investigations, but the bank has consistently refused to turn over related documents to the U.S.

Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited:  IBBL, Bangladesh’s biggest sharia bank, has handled Wahhabi accounts to propagate radical Islam since its inception.  In 2011, the Bangladeshi home ministry intelligence revealed that 8 percent of the bank’s profits were diverted as corporate zakat to support jihad in Bangladesh.  One of the men on IBBL’s board of sharia advisors was arrested in connection with a terrorist attack against Bangladeshi police officers.  The U.S. Senate slammed British bank giant HSBC for maintaining relationships with IBBL despite evidence that it served terrorists like Shaikh Abdur Rahman of Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh and terror-funding Islamic charities like IIRO.  The Senate’s report also implicated HSBC for disregarding evidence of terror financing at another Bangladeshi sharia bank with whom it worked:  Social Islami Bank.

Bank Melli:  The Iranian Islamic bank sent “at least $100 million to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard branch that supports Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups, the Quds Force” between 2002-06.

Bank Saderat:  Another major Iranian sharia finance house, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the rocket-funding Bank Saderat, stating that “The bank is used by the Government of Iran to transfer money to terrorist organizations, including Hizballah, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. A notable example of this is a Hizballah-controlled organization that has received $50 million directly from Iran through Bank Saderat since 2001.”

Other culprits include Dubai Islamic Bank, which is active in both the U.A.E. and Pakistan, and Tadamon Islamic Bank.

So much for “ethical finance.”  For further developments, please continue reading Money Jihad, Shariah Finance Watch, and @moneyjihad on Twitter.

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The fat cats of terror

November 21, 2012

Overlooked this one!  BusinessPundit.com ran an interesting piece last year entitled, “10 Richest Terrorists Ever.”

Notable entries include Dawood Ibrahim in second place:  “India’s most wanted man and a prominent figure in international organized crime and money laundering, Dawood Ibrahim is suspected of masterminding the 1993 Bombay bombings and involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.”

In fifth place, the deceased PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, who “earned” his wealth and a place on the list through graft, corruption, and bribes, and which Daniel Pipes reported on as early as 1990.

Osama Bin Laden appears somewhat lower on the list than expected at number seven.

And, somewhat surprisingly making the list at all at #10, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed “underwear bomber” of Flight 253 rounds out the group as the son of a wealthy sharia bank executive.

Now for who didn’t make the list.  U.S. intelligence estimates that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s net worth is $250 million obtained through corruption, which would have placed him at number six on BusinessPundit’s list if he had been included.

Munich Olympic terrorist mastermind Ali Hassan Salameh led a 1976 PLO bank robbery of $210 million in today’s money.  How much of that he was able to keep for himself is unknown.

It probably wouldn’t have put him on the list even if it’s true, but the ascetic Taliban leader Mullah Omar was said to have stuffed £3.5 million in flour sacks immediately prior to fleeing U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

And let’s not even get started on the billionaire and multi-millionaire Saudi bank magnates that have been accused, with ample evidence supporting the allegations, of financing terrorism.

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Golden Chain fat cat touts 1 trillion in zakat

October 2, 2012

Saleh Kamel

Saleh Kamel, a wealthy Saudi businessman and banker who was listed in the Golden Chain document that revealed prominent Al Qaeda financiers, says that Saudi Arabia possesses one trillion Saudi riyals in zakat revenues.

Zakat is Islam’s 2½ tax on wealth that according to the Koran should be allocated, not just to the poor, but to those fighting for the cause of Allah.  Zakat was the primary source used to fund 9/11 and the Iraq insurgency.

According to an August article from the Arab News, Kamel says that even more Saudis should be paying zakat for real estate transactions.  He also told an audience that Saudi Arabia should rely purely on sharia banking.

It is quite disconcerting that somebody who was exposed as an Al Qaeda donor is calling upon his countrymen to generate even more zakat and use Islamic finance to further Saudi Arabia’s goals.

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Sheikh: preventing terror finance violates rights

September 25, 2012

Sheikh Saleh bin Abdulrahman Al-Hussein, formerly the chief of the presidency of Saudi Arabia’s two holy mosques and a member of the Senior Ulema Council, has written a 1,600 word opinion piece in the Arab News defending the transfer of funds overseas through “charity” from Saudi Arabia.  Hussein asserts that such “charity” is a personal freedom and human right.

In the piece, Sheikh Saleh Hussein slams a 2003 U.S. congressional hearing, which he claims had no facts, just emotional smears, about Saudi charities involved in financing terror.  He blames that hearing, subsequent arm twisting at the United Nations, and traitorous reporting by local Gulf journalists, for giving Saudi Arabia a bad reputation as the world’s terror financial hub.

If the evidence of Saudi perfidy is all based on false or exaggerated rhetoric, can the sheikh please explain the following events?

  • Why the Saudi International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) branch in the Philippines, which was designated by the U.S. as a terrorist entity, was founded by Osama Bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifah—a senior Al Qaeda leader?
  • Why Saudi Arabia conceded that Al Haramain (a charity that operated under the control of the government of Saudi Arabia) branches in Bosnia, Indonesia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Pakistan were terrorist entities?
  • Why the former head of Al Haramain in the U.S. was convicted last year to 33 months in prison for funding jihad in Chechnya?
  • Why the founder of Saudi Arabia’s largest private bank (and the Sunni world’s largest sharia bank) was named in the infamous “Golden Chain” list of 20 financial benefactors of Al Qaeda, and why Saudi Arabia has resisted all legal attempts to access his bank’s records?
  • Why Saudi Arabia sponsors telethons to raise money for suicide bombers?
  • Why the chief of the Bangladeshi terrorist organization JMB says his funding sources include the Saudi-based Muslim World League and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth?
  • Why the Saudi government continues to award public contracts to the Bin Laden family for construction projects?

Oh, and one more question.  Sheikh Hussein concludes his commentary by invoking a verse from the eighth chapter of the Koran (“The Spoils”), a sura which addresses taking the spoils of war from conquered infidels.  If the sheikh is truly interested in defending the principle of charity toward the poor, this is a quite remarkable passage to select!

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Bin Laden’s bookkeeper granted early release

July 27, 2012

Osama Bin Laden’s former accountant and Al Qaeda payroll manager (and cook, driver, and bodyguard) has been released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after serving only two years of his 14 year sentence.  Pentagon officials say that the commutation was part of an agreement reached before Ibrahim al-Qosi’s trial in exchange for “cooperation.”  But there has been no word on the nature or results of said cooperation.  Qosi is being repatriated to Sudan.  What could go wrong?

From the LA Times:

Bin Laden aide released from Guantanamo, sent home to Sudan

July 11, 2012 |  1:52 pm

Ibrahim al-Qosi at a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday

One of the longest-held prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has been released and sent home to Sudan after serving two years of a 14-year sentence for providing support to Al Qaeda’s late founder, Osama bin Laden.

Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud Qosi, 52, had been held at the compound for suspected terrorists since early 2002, shortly after it was opened at the U.S. Navy base in southern Cuba. His release and transfer to his homeland on Tuesday fulfilled a plea deal at the time of his July 2010 conviction for providing assistance in the form of cooking, driving and bookkeeping to Al Qaeda’s terrorist training center in Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

Qosi’s release spurred new calls by human rights organizations for President Obama to release or transfer the remaining 168 foreign men still held at Guantanamo and to close the prison and military tribunal that have brought international condemnation of the U.S. practice of indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without charges or trials.

With the release of Qosi, one of only seven to be tried among nearly 800 detainees brought to Guantanamo over the last decade, the Obama administration “has no justification” for continuing to hold dozens of men who have never been charged with any crime and aren’t considered dangerous, said Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

“As Obama embarks on his second presidential campaign, he should uphold the promises on which he was elected the first time, including closing Guantanamo and ending this shameful chapter in U.S. history,” Azmy insisted.

The Pentagon said in a statement Wednesday that Qosi’s release was in accordance with a pretrial accord in which the government agreed to suspend all but two years of his sentence in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors.

Qosi’s departure means only four convicted prisoners remain at Guantanamo, said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. Only one of the convicts, Pakistani-born Majid Khan, is a “high-value detainee” accused of having a role in the Sept. 11 attacks or other major terrorist crimes.

Two of the three prisoners in the convicts’ block of the maximum-security Camp 5 prison could also be released in the near future: Omar Khadr of Canada is already eligible for transfer to his homeland once the Ottawa government agrees to accept him, and Noor Uthman Mohammed of Sudan may be released as soon as next year, once he has provided testimony in other pending trials, as agreed in his plea deal. The third convict at Camp 5 is Ali Hamza Bahlul of Yemen, an Al Qaeda propagandist serving a life sentence.

Khan was a legal U.S. resident in the Baltimore area at the time of his arrest in 2003 during a family visit to Pakistan. Initially detained and interrogated at a CIA “black site,” Khan was accused of plotting with Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up U.S. apartment blocks and businesses. The terms of his plea bargain remain confidential, and his sentencing has been put off for four years, during which he is expected to provide testimony against other major terrorism suspects at Guantanamo.

Two other Guantanamo convicts,  Salim Hamdan of Yemen and David Hicks of Australia, have served their time and gone home.

Obama had pledged to close Guantanamo within a year of his January 2009 inauguration but was thwarted by opponents in Congress who passed legislation prohibiting transfer of terrorism suspects to U.S. soil. His administration conducted a review of the remaining prisoners in 2009 and concluded that cases could be brought against some but that there was insufficient evidence to charge 46 of those considered too potentially dangerous to release.

Efforts to repatriate the majority who will neither be charged nor indefinitely held have stalled amid the political gridlock in Washington and refusal by some home countries to take back their suspect citizens.