Bomb suspect's group received funding from Saudi charity

Thursday, April 15, 2004

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- The mosque run by a man detained on suspicion of planning to bomb a Jewish museum received money from an organization allegedly linked to al-Qaida, an Islamic community leader said Wednesday.

The Dar-Assalam mosque, run by Palestinian-born dentist Tayseer Saleh, 42, received funds from the Saudi-based Al-Haramain charity after the mosque broke away from Hungary's main Islamic group, the Hungarian Islam Society, according to society leader Zoltan Bolek.

Police detained Saleh after intelligence services and witnesses said he was planning to bomb a museum. Two others also were detained.

The action came as Israeli President Moshe Katsav arrived in Budapest to help open Hungary's first Holocaust memorial center Thursday. Police ruled out any connection between the alleged plot and Katsav's visit.

There are two Jewish museums in the capital -- the Holocaust center and a small permanent exhibit. Police have not said which museum was targeted.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States, Al-Haramain had come under scrutiny on suspicion it bankrolled al-Qaida terror activities.

Its branches in 10 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, have been shut down for suspected ties to al-Qaida and other alleged terrorist groups.

Bolek told The Associated Press that Saleh's mosque "received funds and frequent visits from the Al-Haramain group."

At its height, Saudi-based Al-Haramain raised $40 million to $50 million a year in charitable contributions worldwide, a Saudi official has said.

Al-Haramain has denied any link to terrorist activities and said it was only involved in charity work for the poor.

"I feel sorry for Saleh because he was a decent man and they have twisted his mind with their distorted view of Islam," Bolek added.

Hungary's National Security Agency alerted police to the potential threat posed by the suspect three weeks ago, he said. That warning came as security was heightened throughout Europe following the terrorist bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain.

"Since (the Madrid bombings) there can be no room ... for taking any chances, if we have evidence and information we have to act immediately," said Gal, the government spokesman.

Bolek estimated that about 20,000 Muslims live in Hungary, but said only "1 percent" were attracted to extremist views.

At the Dar-Assalam mosque Wednesday, a worshipper who refused to identify himself also said that the mosque received funds from Saudi Arabian groups.

Police said they have no information suggesting the bomb plot was linked to foreign terror groups, but they are investigating that possibility.

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