In its fight against terrorism, the United States has focused on individuals and entities supporting or belonging to terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, IRGC, Hezbollah, Hamas, PIJ, the PFLP, and FARC. Osen LLC is litigating cases, or has open investigations, concerning these terrorist groups.
Al Qaeda is an international terrorist network responsible for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. In 1992, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for bombing a hotel in Yemen and has been linked to the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed nearly 300 people. According to a 1998 federal indictment, Al Qaeda is administered by a council that “discussed and approved major undertakings, including terrorist operations.”
Al Qaeda’s global network takes many forms. Following the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, became the dominant anti-American terrorist group inciting sectarian war between Iraq’s Sunni and Shi’a communities. AQI was particularly known for its savagery, which included killing Shi’a civilians with spectacular suicide attacks, bombing Shi’a mosques (including an infamous bombing in Samara) and uploading videos of beheadings on jihadist internet forums.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in 2006 but AQI continued its operations and eventually renamed itself the Islamic State of Iraq (better known today as ISIS), eventually spreading it operational reach into Syria, where it continues to operate.
Over time, several other Al Qaeda-affiliated groups have emerged, including Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (a separately U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), which operates in northern Africa, and Al Shabaab, which operates in Somalia and central Africa.
The U.S. State Department designated Al Qaeda a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1999, and it continues to be so designated.
The CIA estimates that it cost Al Qaeda about $30 million per year to sustain its activities prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks and that it raised those funds almost entirely through donations. In some instances, Al Qaeda is believed to have subverted specific branch offices of large Saudi and Gulf state charities that donated money to smaller charities in remote places like Bosnia and Chechnya. In addition, Al Qaeda appears to have controlled entire charities created and operated to sustain its global operations. In addition to receiving donations and raising funds through hostage taking and related organized crime activities, Al Qaeda reportedly continues to receive financial support from certain wealthy donors in the Persian Gulf, including donors from Qatar.
ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARD CORPS (IRGC)
Formally founded on May 5, 1979, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) is defined by Iranian law as “an institution commanded by the Supreme Leader whose purpose is to protect the Islamic Revolution of Iran and its accomplishments, while striving continuously . . . to spread the sovereignty of God’s law.” The IRGC today enjoys the power of a particularly powerful government agency but does not answer to the formal institutions of the Iranian government. The IRGC’s mission combines traditional military roles, international terrorism, and a relentless focus on punishing domestic dissenters.
The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) transformed the IRGC from a militia into a more established military institution. During the war, a network of then junior IRGC commanders formed close bonds and later emerged as the dominant figures within the IRGC and the regime’s power structures.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has long sanctioned and encouraged the IRGC’s growth and influence, including its pervasive role in Iran’s economy. Its business ventures generate revenues for its operations, making it difficult to estimate the actual full budget at its disposal.
The Quds (Jerusalem) Force is the branch of the IRGC responsible for sponsoring, training, and overseeing Iran’s terror proxy groups across the Middle East. It has long played an active role in providing training, weapons, intelligence, and directions to a range of terrorist groups ranging from Lebanese Hezbollah to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. For many years, the group’s commander was Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.
Hezbollah (translated from Arabic as “Party of God”) is a terrorist, political and military organization founded in Lebanon in 1982 and still based there. It is a radical militant Shi’a group violently opposed to the State of Israel’s existence. Hezbollah is also strongly anti-Western and retains extremely close ties with Iran, itself a U.S.-designated State Sponsor of Terrorism. Among Hezbollah’s stated objectives are the destruction of Israel and the elimination of Western influences from the region. Historically, Hezbollah has played a key role in projecting Iranian power by fighting Israel and supporting Shi’a communities in Lebanon. In recent years, that role has expanded to include fighting on the front lines in Syria in support of Iranian efforts to support the Assad regime. For several years now, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has openly acknowledged his organization’s military role in Syria, and Hezbollah fighters have reportedly moved from village to village in sweeping military maneuvers (coordinated with IRGC’s Quds Force and the Syrian army) designed to clear and hold key cities such as Qusayr along the border between Lebanon and Syria. Hezbollah has also armed, trained, and organized various groups of pro-Assad forces in Syria such as a group of Alawite and Shi’a volunteers known as Jaysh al-Sha’bi that is modeled after Iran’s own Basij force.
Hezbollah is operated through its Executive Council, led by Hashem Safieddine, which reports directly to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (Safieddine’s cousin) and oversees the organization’s paramilitary and terrorist operations governed by a sub-directorate known as the Jihad Council, which Nasrallah chairs.
With the exception of the September 11, 2001, attacks upon the United States, Hezbollah is responsible for the largest terrorist attack on an American target, the 1983 truck bomb that killed 241 American Marines in Beirut. The terrorist organization also murdered 19 Americans in 1996 at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia; slaughtered 28 and injured hundreds more during a 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina; hijacked TWA Flight 847; and was responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of former CIA station chief William Buckley in Beirut.
The U.S. State Department first designated Hezbollah a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in 1997, and it continues to be so designated. Nonetheless, Hezbollah has been allowed to maintain its own private army in Lebanon and operate as a political party since 1992, when it won eight seats in the Lebanese parliament. In 2005, Hezbollah won fourteen seats and since its war with Israel in 2006, its political influence in Lebanon has only grown. Hezbollah receives most of its financial support from Iran, but it has also developed other sources of funding.
Hezbollah operates numerous civil institutions that help the organization extend its influence in Lebanon as well as foster in-group identification within Lebanon’s Shi’a community. The Islamic Resistance Support Organization (IRSO) serves as the primary “charitable” fundraising organization for Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), its external attack-planning component. The Martyrs Foundation serves as the IRSO’s flagship social organization, focusing on providing financial support, medical and educational services, and ideological training to the families of Hezbollah supporters. The Martyrs Foundation raises funds through contributions and its ownership and control of a series of companies through Atlas Holding, designated Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2020.
In addition, Hezbollah operates several other “social welfare organizations” in Lebanon that both raise funds, and reinforce domestic solidarity, for the FTO by, e.g., caring for the families of deceased or wounded jihadists, building hospitals to service Hezbollah strongholds in southern Beirut and southern Lebanon, and funding public works projects that improve local infrastructure and construct clandestine facilities for Hezbollah’s militia and terror apparatus. These “social welfare organizations” include Jihad al-Bina (Hezbollah’s construction arm); Al-Mabarrat Charitable Society (founded by Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, designated a Specially Designated Terrorist in 1995); Imam Khomeini Relief Committee; and the Wounded Association.
Hezbollah’s finances are managed by several overlapping directorates, but its IJO, which conducts most of the FTO’s terrorist operations, has long maintained its own independent revenue streams orchestrated by a financial network known as the Business Affairs Component (BAC). The BAC is an international apparatus orchestrating Hezbollah’s network of businesses and enterprises across the world, tasked with raising funds for the IJO through illicit activities, such as money laundering and drug trafficking, as well as ordinary business enterprises.
Since 2008, the BAC’s leadership has been nominally divided between Abdallah Safieddine and Adham Tabaja. Safieddine manages the IJO’s financial coordination with Iran’s IRGC and oversees Hezbollah’s international drug trafficking networks and operations. His brother, Hashem Safieddine, is one of Hezbollah’s most prominent political leaders and a member of its Shura Council. Abdallah Safieddine has spent considerable time in Iran actively coordinating the BAC’s finances with the IRGC. For example, in 2011, when Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network identified the Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB) as “a financial institution of primary money laundering concern,” it specifically noted that “LCB managers are linked to Hezbollah officials outside Lebanon. For example, Hezbollah’s Tehran-based envoy Abdallah Safieddine is involved in Iranian officials’ access to LCB and key LCB managers, who provide them banking services.”
By contrast, Tabaja is one of the most prominent Hezbollah leaders in the commercial sector in Lebanon. Under its “Rewards for Justice” Program, DOJ has offered (up to) a $10 million reward for information relating to Tabaja, describing him as a “Hezbollah member who maintains direct ties to senior Hezbollah organizational elements, including the terrorist group’s operational component, Islamic Jihad. Tabaja also holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group.” Tabaja has been a public figure for decades and is widely known as a prominent Hezbollah operative and real estate mogul, standing at the forefront of Hezbollah’s leading projects, from building hospitals and schools to public works projects to a series of amusement parks and entertainment projects.
Hamas (an acronym of Harakat al-Muqawamah al-Islamiyya, which in Arabic means “Islamic Resistance Movement”) is a Palestinian terrorist organization. It was established in late 1987 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, and is an outgrowth of the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement he headed for more than 30 years. Hamas’s terror apparatus – which it calls the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades – has executed dozens of large-scale suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks in pursuit of its goals: the destruction of the State of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state in its place. In fact, its charter defines its highest priority as Jihad (holy war) to liberate Palestine and to establish an Islamic Palestine “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The U.S. State Department first designated Hamas a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and it continues to be so designated.
In the past twenty years, Hamas has perpetrated thousands of terrorist attacks in Israel in which hundreds of civilians have been killed and thousands injured. The group’s leadership is dispersed throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with a few senior leaders residing in Turkey, Lebanon, and Qatar.
Iran and Islamic “charities” around the world are among Hamas’s primary sources of financing. Hamas’s various social institutions in the Palestinian Territories, often called the da’wa by the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities, constitute Hamas’s socio-economic infrastructure and the principal method it employs to maintain popular support. On the surface, Hamas’s da’wa activities focus on Islamic education and values, but Hamas uses its institutions to do more than encourage Palestinians to become more religious. In reality, the da’wa network provides jobs to Hamas operatives, prestige for Hamas’s political operations, meeting places for Hamas terror cells and a fertile recruiting ground for the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
Hamas’s Da’wa in the Palestinian Territories
Since its beginnings as an outgrowth of al-Mujama al-Islami in Gaza (the Islamic Center of Gaza), Hamas has built its power base and gained the support of ordinary Gazans as a result of its extensive network of social organizations. Sheikh Yassin established al-Mujama and its sister organization, al-Jam’iya al-Islamiya (the Islamic Society of Gaza) to build grass roots support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. In 1987, that organization morphed into what is now Hamas.
Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades’ website calls on its readers to give ‘zakat’ or tithing, generously, and suggests that Hamas spends that money on a wide range of “charitable” projects, in addition to its military activities. By associating its military activities with its social work, Hamas attempts to justify its fundraising.
Hamas’s da’wa is made up of a wide network of charitable societies, some of which were established by the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza in the beginning of the 1970s (such as al-Mujama al-Islami) and others which were founded after the establishment of Hamas in 1987. Since 1987, Hamas has gradually taken over other nominally charitable institutions in the Palestinian Territories which were established by the Waqf (the Islamic religious endowment in the Palestinian Territories) and private associations. In effect, since the late 1990s, Hamas has gained control over a web of charitable societies in the Palestinian Territories and uses their funds to carry out its da’wa activities.
Many of these organizations have been placed on the Israeli government’s blacklist of Unlawful Associations. The organizations include:
- Al-Mujama al-Islami – Gaza
- Al-Jam'iya al-Islamiya – Gaza
- Al Salah Society – Gaza
- Islamic Charitable Society – Hebron
- Jenin Zakat Committee
- Nablus Zakat Committee
- Islamic Solidarity (Al-Tadhamun) Charitable Society – Nablus
- Tulkarem Zakat Committee
- Ramallah–Al-Bireh Zakat Committee
- Al-Islah Charitable Society - Ramallah & Al-Bireh
- Al Nur Prisoner Society – Gaza
- Al-Huda Women’s Society
Importantly, however, many of these organizations are not only blacklisted by Israel but have also been identified as Hamas-controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice. Specifically, in 2008, federal prosecutors obtained convictions against the Holy Land Foundation for Relief & Development (HLF) and HLF’s leadership. In its superseding indictment prosecutors identified most of these organizations as operating on behalf of, or under the control of, Hamas.
At the HLF trial, U.S. government prosecutors played tapes documenting secret fundraising meetings of Hamas leaders in Philadelphia, PA in the early 1990s, and their discussion of Hamas-controlled organizations. The prosecutors also presented evidence and demonstratives explaining how key Hamas leaders played a vital role in the da’wa network, including:
- A chart demonstrating Hamas’s leadership in the 1990s.
- Graphics explaining Sheikh Ahmed Yassin’s relationship with three “cornerstone” institutions of Hamas, al-Mujama, al-Jam'iya and al Salah.
- Hamas leaders of, among others, the Tulkarem Zakat Committee, the Ramallah Zakat Committee, the Nablus Zakat Committee, the Jenin Zakat Committee, and the Islamic Charitable Society – Hebron.
Hamas’s External Fundraising Network
On August 22, 2003, the United States Government announced the freezing of four European-based Hamas fundraisers – the Commite de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestinians (CBSP), the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), Interpal, and the Palestinian Association in Austria (PVOE) – and one Lebanese-based Hamas fundraiser, the Sanabil Association for Relief and Development. Earlier in 2003, the U.S. designated the Al-Aqsa Foundation – another European-based Hamas fundraiser. On September 12, 2003, the European Union, having previously only designated the military wing of Hamas, designated the entire organization.
In November 2008, the United States designated the Union of Good (a/k/a Charity Coalition), declaring that “the leadership of Hamas created [it]…in order to facilitate the transfer of funds to Hamas.”
The Israel Security Agency confirms that in 2002 the Union of Good and its members were designated by Israel due to their affiliation to, and support of, Hamas. In May 2008, an additional 36 organizations that were members of the Charity Coalition were designated by the Israeli Minister of Defense because it “serves as the umbrella organization for the global fund-raising activity directed by Hamas which admits dozens of radical Islamic societies.”
The Israel Security Agency also confirms that the major charitable societies that constitute Hamas’s global financial network include:
- Interpal – Palestinian Relief and Development Fund in Britain
- The Al Aqsa Fund and its European branches (Sanabil Al Aqsa (Sweden), the Al Aqsa Fund, Al Israa Foundation (Netherlands) and the Al Aqsa Fund (Belgium))
- Le Comité de Benfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) – France
- Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) – USA (until its 2001 designation)
- The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) – Saudi Arabia
- Association de Secours Palestinian (ASP) – Switzerland
- Associazione Beneficia di Solidarieta col Popolo Palestinese – Italy (ABSPP)
Despite the British government’s efforts to whitewash Interpal, the organization’s own 2002 brochure lists Hamas da’wa institutions as “Interpal Beneficiaries” and in recent years, Interpal’s trustees have openly met with and celebrated their joint efforts with Hamas leaders in Gaza.
PALESTINIAN ISLAMIC JIHAD (PIJ)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a violent offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in the late 1970s by a group of radical Palestinian activists in Egypt, PIJ is one of many Islamic jihadist movements in the Middle East.
PIJ is dedicated to the violent destruction of Israel and has employed violence, including suicide bombings, shootings, and rocket attacks against Israeli targets.
The U.S. State Department first designated PIJ a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and it continues to be so designated.
Over the past twenty years, PIJ has been responsible for more than 40 successful attacks in Israel that have caused at least 100 people to be killed and 500 to be injured. Like Hamas, PIJ operates a da’wa network – albeit a much smaller and less politically influential one.
On May 4, 2005, the United States designated Al-Ihsan (or Elehssan Society) in the Palestinian Territories as part of PIJ’s civilian infrastructure, including its main branch in Gaza and those in the West Bank in Bethlehem, Jenin, Ramallah and Tulkarem, describing Al-Ihsan as “masquerad[ing] as a charity, while actually helping to finance Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s acts of terror against the Israeli people and other innocents.”
According to a BBC report in 2002 (citing Hamas’s website), the Al-Ihsan Charity Society was established in 1997 and provided financial and in-kind aid to the poor and the needy and runs a number of kindergartens on behalf of PIJ. After the U.S. designation of Al-Ihsan, many of its functions were allegedly taken over by Al-Salahin Kindergartens for Children and Social Services Society (a/k/a the Righteous Kindergartens Association Society for Children and Social Services).
POPULAR FRONT FOR THE LIBERATION OF PALESTINE (PFLP)
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which pioneered such terror tactics as airline hijackings, joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the main umbrella terrorist organization of the Palestinian independence movement, in 1968. In July 1968, the PFLP hijacked its first plane, an El Al flight from Rome to Tel Aviv. In 1972, the PFLP and Japanese Red Army conducted a joint operation, murdering two dozen passengers at Israel’s Lod airport. The PFLP began as a Marxist-Leninist, nationalist movement founded in 1967 by George Habash.
After joining the PLO, the PFLP for several years remained the organization’s second-largest faction (behind Yassir Arafat’s Fatah faction). In 1976, PFLP operatives working with German Baader-Meinhof terrorists hijacked a French airliner and diverted the flight to Uganda. Most of the passengers taken to Uganda were later rescued by Israeli commandos at the Entebbe airport. Faced with decreasing financial and logistical support following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of overtly Islamist groups like Hamas and PIJ, the PFLP became increasingly marginalized in the Palestinian Territories and largely dependent on safe harbor and support from Syria.
In October 2001, however, the PFLP proved that it remains active and deadly when its gunmen assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evi in a Jerusalem hotel.
The U.S. State Department first designated the PFLP a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997, and it continues to be so designated.
Over the past decade, the PFLP has continued its activities in the Palestinian Territories but has also become increasingly active in Europe and North America where its clandestine political activities are often channeled into NGOs affiliated with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
FUERZAS ARMADAS REVOLUCIONARIAS DE COLOMBIA (FARC)
Although much of the current media focus centers on Middle Eastern and Islamist terrorism, terrorism, and its financing strategies, is by no means limited to any one region, religion, or ideology. FARC was established in 1964 by the Colombian Communist Party as its “military” wing, to defend what were then Communist-controlled rural areas in Colombia. A union of communist militants and peasant self-defense groups, FARC is Colombia’s largest rebel group, comprised of 15,000 to 18,000 members, organized into approximately 64 “frentes” or fronts, and operating primarily in sparsely populated areas in Colombia.
FARC was responsible for most of the ransom kidnappings in Colombia, targeting wealthy landowners, foreign tourists, prominent international and domestic officials and ordinary civilians.
The U.S. State Department first designated FARC a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997. The European Union and Colombian governments also designated FARC a terrorist organization.
FARC conducted thousands of kidnappings in the past 30 years, collecting millions of dollars in ransom money. This included kidnapping 23 Americans between 1994 and 1997 alone. Unlike many Islamist terrorist organizations, FARC financed itself primarily through kidnapping ransoms, extortion, and drug trafficking. FARC also financially supported its “revolutionary” operations by collecting “war taxes” from residents, businesses, and landowners in the regions in which FARC operated.
In March 2007, Chiquita International Brands, Inc., the American banana exporter, pled guilty to violating U.S. anti-terrorism laws by funding another Colombian terrorist organization, a violent paramilitary group named Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-Defense of Colombia) or the “AUC.” In the U.S. Justice Department’s Factual Proffer to the Court in conjunction with Chiquita’s plea agreement, the Justice Department stated that it could prove Chiquita made similar payments to FARC from 1989 through 1997. Chiquita ultimately agreed to pay a $25 million fine to the U.S. Government as part of its guilty plea.
In March 2008, Raul Reyes, whose birth name was Luis Edgar Devia Silva, was killed by Colombian troops. Reyes was frequently described as the number two man in the FARC leadership. His death, and the discovery of a laptop computer belonging to Reyes and purportedly containing a large quantity of critical information on FARC’s operations (as well as the seizure of other FARC computers), created an international crisis that prompted a meeting of South American leaders.
Following the 2016 Peace Accord, the FARC formally dissolved and disarmed. In 2021, the United States revoked the terrorist and drug trafficking sanctions designations for FARC.