Crackdown ordered on Hamas' finances

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration froze the financial assets and closed the offices of a Texas-based foundation linked to Hamas on Tuesday, broadening the fight against terrorism to a militant Palestinian group that claimed responsibility for last weekend's deadly attacks in Israel.

In a display of solidarity with Israel, President Bush also ordered a crackdown on two Palestinian groups accused of financing Hamas.

"The message is this: Those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States or anywhere else the United States can reach," the president said in a Rose Garden announcement with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Bush called Hamas one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world, and said it supports "the total destruction of Israel."

The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, with offices in Illinois, California and New Jersey, denied ties to Hamas.

The foundation issued a statement that said, "The decision by the U.S. government to seize the charitable donations of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan is an affront to millions of Muslim Americans who entrust charities like ours to assist in fulfilling their religious obligations."

Bush said Hamas uses money raised by the foundation to indoctrinate children to become suicide bombers and to support the families of suicide attackers. Most donors don't know how the money is used, Bush said, "but the facts are clear, the terrorists benefit from the Holy Land Foundation, and we're not going to allow it."

Hamas, already on the State Department terrorist list, said through a spokesman it gets no money from U.S. groups.

The action marked the administration's third round of orders against groups suspected of funneling money to terrorists from offices in America and abroad.

Bush has promised to lead a global coalition that uses military, financial, diplomatic and intelligence tools against terrorist cells, starting with the al-Qaida network based in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is suspected of being behind the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,500.

"The net is closing," Bush said before leaving for Florida, where he was discussing the economic impact of the attacks. "Today, it just got tighter."

Bush said Hamas has killed hundreds of people over the years, including two Americans in the past 12 months.

Bush addressed reporters hours after O'Neill issued a midnight order shutting down Holy Land offices in Richardson, Texas; Paterson, N.J.; San Diego, Calif., and Bridgeview, Ill.

Ashcroft said the foundation is linked to an Internet company which was raided by the FBI and had its assets frozen six days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Tuesday, agents with the FBI and Treasury Department seized documents at Holy Land offices in hopes of finding evidence for the broad anti-terrorism case.

They virtually emptied the suburban San Diego office, leaving behind a small paper American flag that had been hanging in the window. Another flag was posted in a window at the New Jersey office, where a half dozen agents took an automatic teller machine, two fax machines and boxes of dried plums.

Ashcroft said agents were conducting voluntary interviews with foundation staff.

The two other groups targeted Tuesday were Al Aqsa International Bank and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company, an investment group. It was not known whether the group had assets in American banks, but the administration was urging allies to target assets abroad.

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration froze the financial assets and closed the offices of a Texas-based foundation linked to Hamas on Tuesday, broadening the fight against terrorism to a militant Palestinian group that claimed responsibility for last weekend's deadly attacks in Israel.

In a display of solidarity with Israel, President Bush also ordered a crackdown on two Palestinian groups accused of financing Hamas.

"The message is this: Those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States or anywhere else the United States can reach," the president said in a Rose Garden announcement with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Bush called Hamas one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world, and said it supports "the total destruction of Israel."

The Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, with offices in Illinois, California and New Jersey, denied ties to Hamas. The group, registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt charity, raised $13 million last year and calls itself the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

The foundation issued a statement that said, "The decision by the U.S. government to seize the charitable donations of Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan is an affront to millions of Muslim Americans who entrust charities like ours to assist in fulfilling their religious obligations."

Bush said Hamas uses money raised by the foundation to indoctrinate children to become suicide bombers and to support the families of suicide attackers. Most donors don't know how the money is used, Bush said, "but the facts are clear, the terrorists benefit from the Holy Land Foundation, and we're not going to allow it."

Hamas, already on the State Department terrorist list, said through a spokesman it gets no money from U.S. groups.

The action marked the administration's third round of orders against groups suspected of funneling money to terrorists from offices in America and abroad.

Bush has promised to lead a global coalition that uses military, financial, diplomatic and intelligence tools against terrorist cells, starting with the al-Qaida network based in Afghanistan. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is suspected of being behind the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,500.

"The net is closing," Bush said before leaving for Florida, where he was discussing the economic impact of the attacks. "Today, it just got tighter."

Bush said Hamas has killed hundreds of people over the years, including two Americans in the past 12 months.

Bush addressed reporters hours after O'Neill issued a midnight order shutting down Holy Land offices in Richardson, Texas; Paterson, N.J.; San Diego, Calif., and Bridgeview, Ill.

Ashcroft said the foundation is linked to an Internet company which was raided by the FBI and had its assets frozen six days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

On Tuesday, agents with the FBI and Treasury Department seized documents at Holy Land offices in hopes of finding evidence for the broad anti-terrorism case.

They virtually emptied the suburban San Diego office, leaving behind a small paper American flag that had been hanging in the window. Another flag was posted in a window at the New Jersey office, where a half dozen agents took an automatic teller machine, two fax machines and boxes of dried plums.

Ashcroft said agents were conducting voluntary interviews with foundation staff.

The two other groups targeted Tuesday were Al Aqsa International Bank and the Beit El-Mal Holdings Company, an investment group. It was not known whether the group had assets in American banks, but the administration was urging allies to target assets abroad.

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