President Bush says the United States is tightening the financial noose around Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organization. U.S. agents have raided the American operations of two financial networks believed to be a major source of terrorist funds and their U.S. assets have been frozen. President is calling on other nations to do the same
President Bush is ratcheting up the war on terrorism on the financial front. His new target: two shadowy business networks that are a source of funds and other support for al-Qaida. "Al-Taqwa and al-Barakaat raise funds for al-Qaida," he said. "They manage, invest and distribute those funds. They provide terrorist supporters with Internet service, secure telephone communications and other ways of sending messages and sharing information. They even arrange for the shipment of weapons."
Mr. Bush said their U.S. assets and those of 60 entities with links to them have been frozen, and raids have been conducted on al-Taqwa and al-Barakaat operations in America. They marked the first major action taken against businesses and individuals suspected of supporting terrorists from U.S. soil.
"Their offices have been shut down in four U.S. states," said Mr. Bush. "And our G-8 partners and other friends, including the United Arab Emirates, have joined us in blocking assets and coordinating enforcement action."
The president spoke at a U.S. Treasury Department investigation facility just hours after federal agents began the raids. Meanwhile, Swiss authorities detained the two Egyptian financiers who co-founded al-Taqwa. "They present themselves as legitimate businesses," said Mr. Bush. "But they skim money from every transaction for the benefit of terrorist organizations. They enable the proceeds of crime in one country to be transferred to pay for terrorist acts in another."
Mr. Bush has stressed from the beginning of the war on terrorism that cutting off the flow of money to terrorists is key, and international cooperation is essential. Administration officials say $43 million has been blocked so far around the world. The president hopes that is only the beginning. "By shutting these networks down we disrupt the murderers' work," he said. "Today's action interrupts al-Qaida's communications, it blocks an important source of funds, it provides us with valuable information, and sends a clear message to global financial institutions: you are with us or you are with the terrorists."
This is the second time in about a month that the Bush administration has substantially increased the list of individuals and business whose assets are being frozen because of suspected terrorist ties.
The first list included established businesses, such as banks. Now, the administration is extending its reach to the informal network that allows terrorists to move money around the world in an unregulated fashion.