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Italy Tracks Down Terrorist Links, Freezes Bank Accounts - 2001-11-08


Italian authorities have frozen the bank accounts of seven people on a list supplied by the United States of financiers suspected of funding terrorists. Italian police also carried out searches of two Arabs whose company is believed to be linked to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

Few details have emerged about the accounts frozen by the Italian economy minister except that they were on a list of 150 suspect people and organizations provided by the United States.

Italian authorities are now checking the financial operations of the accounts to determine if they were used to provide funding to terrorist organizations.

Ever since the September 11 attacks, the United States has been trying to track down and identify sources of funding to terrorist networks.

Two Arab financiers holding Italian passports were detained by Swiss police on Wednesday and questioned for hours. The men are suspected of using their businesses as a cover to funnel money to Osama bin-Laden's organization. Both men, Youssef Mustafa Nada and Ali Ghaleb Himmat, were named on the U.S. list of suspected terrorists.

Police raided their luxury homes in the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia, a gambling center and tax haven in Switzerland. Their offices in Lugano were also searched and thousands of documents seized. Their lawyer said his clients would be questioned again in the next few days but added that they have "nothing to fear and nothing to hide."

The two men are also believed to be senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group established in 1928 that wants to establish an Islamic state in Egypt. Authorities in Egypt have long argued that the Muslim Brotherhood is nothing but a front for terrorists.

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