In its fight against terrorism, the United States has focused on individuals and entities supporting or belonging to terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda, 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 attack 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.” Nonetheless, it appears that Al Qaeda is currently as much a brand name as a hierarchical organization, and some experts believe that Al Qaeda has always been more of a coalition of disparate groups than a unified organization.
It is however, beyond dispute that the Al Qaeda network takes many forms. Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), for example, has reconstituted itself as a relatively professional paramilitary force that has executed synchronized, sophisticated attacks in Iraq in the past year or more, in particular waves of Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VB-IEDs). For example, on July 23, 2012, AQI struck civilian and Iraqi government targets across northern Iraq, detonating 30 VB-IEDs. Likewise, in Syria, several Al Qaeda-affiliated groups are taking part in that country’s brutal civil war, including the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, and Jabhat al-Nusra. In North Africa, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) (a separately U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization) traces back to Algeria's civil war. In Somalia and central Africa, Al Shabaab is Al Qaeda’s affiliate, waging an insurgency against the Somali Government and striking beyond Somalia’s borders, most recently in Kenya.
The U.S. State Department designated Al Qaeda a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1999, and it continues to be so designated. A number of other terrorist groups that have not been formally designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations are associated with Al Qaeda, including the Islamic Army of Aden (Yemen), Hizb-e-Islam/Gulbuddin (fighting the government of Afghanistan), and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (allegedly responsible for a suicide bomb attack in Casablanca in 2003).
The CIA estimates that it cost Al Qaeda about $30 million per year to sustain its activities prior to the September 11, 2001 attack 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.
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’ite 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 Shia communities in Lebanon. In the last two years, that role has expanded to include fighting on the front lines in Syria. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, now openly acknowledges his organization’s military role in Syria, and Hezbollah fighters have reportedly moved from village to village in sweeping military maneuvers (coordinated with Iran’s Qods 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 Shia 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 Safi al-Din, which reports directly to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (Safi al-Din’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 attack 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 in 1997, and it continues to be so designated. Nonetheless, Hezbollah has operated 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. In West Africa, for example, the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone from 1991 until 2002 facilitated large-scale diamond smuggling, and according to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, during that period, Hezbollah entered into the illegal diamond trade. Hezbollah has also reportedly made use of African-based companies like Tajco Ltd. and Ovlas Trading along with diamond and food trading enterprises in Gambia, the Congo and Angola to launder money. It has also institutionalized a system of shaking down Lebanese businessmen in the Shi’a diaspora in Africa. Hezbollah’s finance network continues to grow as Lebanese expatriate communities throughout Africa have developed a wide array of international trade-based money laundering schemes, involving cash smuggling and drug trafficking. Hezbollah has cultivated new opportunities in Congo, Ghana and Benin as well.
The organization has also diversified, taking hold in South America. For example, in May 2013, a prominent Hezbollah supporter named Hamzi Ahmad Barakat was arrested in Brazil on charges of fraud relating to alleged front companies involved in trafficking weapons, drugs and other lethal materials in support of Hezbollah. Venezuela, however, appears to be the organization’s greatest profit center in South America, where it has built a network that includes money laundering, paramilitary training, drug trafficking and other illicit activities.
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.
Since September 2000, Hamas has perpetrated more than 320 successful terrorist attacks in Israel in which more than 350 people were killed and 1,500 injured. The group’s leadership is dispersed throughout the Gaza Strip and West Bank, with a few senior leaders residing in Qatar and others elsewhere.
Iran and Islamic “charities” around the world are among Hamas’s primary sources of financing. These charities, often called the da’wa by the intelligence community, 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. Ahmed 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 the Hamas government spends that money on a wide range of charity projects, in addition to its military activities. By associating its military activities with its charity work, Hamas attempts to justify its spending.
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 controlled 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 Comite de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestinians (CBSP), the Association de Secours Palestinian (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 Austria (ABSPP)
Despite the British government’s efforts to whitewash Interpal, the organization’s own 2002 brochure lists a 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) 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.
Since September, 2000, 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).
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), 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 the late 1960s. 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. The PFLP joined the PLO in 1968 and 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 has become 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.
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 has been 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, and it continues to be so designated. The European Union and Colombian governments have also designated FARC a terrorist organization.
FARC has conducted thousands of kidnappings in the past 20 years, collecting millions in ransom money. FARC kidnapped 23 Americans between 1994 and 1997 alone. Unlike many Islamist terrorist organizations, FARC finances itself primarily through kidnapping ransoms, extortion, and drug trafficking. FARC also financially supports its "revolutionary" operations by collecting "war taxes" from residents, businesses and landowners in the regions in which FARC operates.
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. Allegations have surfaced that the captured FARC computers contained documents proving that Venezuela has been providing financial support to FARC.