N.Y. Mosque Linked to al-Qaida Funding
Mar. 05, 2003
NEW YORK (AP) _ A Yemeni cleric detained in Germany bragged to an FBI informant that he supplied $20 million, recruits and weapons to Osama bin Laden in the years leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. officials said Tuesday.
Much of the money came from contributors in the United States, including worshippers at the Al Farouq mosque in New York, Attorney General John Ashcroft said in announcing charges against Sheik Mohammed Al Hasan Al-Moayad.
Amid an undercover operation, Al-Moayad ``boasted that jihad was his field, and trumpeted his involvement in providing money, recruits and supplies to al-Qaida, Hamas and other terrorist groups,'' Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington.
Al-Moayad, 54, identified at least five individuals in New York as sources of secret funding, including Brooklyn business owners, according to a complaint unsealed in federal court here Tuesday. An informant met with those people late last year and secretly recorded conversations about money smuggling.
A man who answered the phone at the Al Farouq mosque would not discuss the case. The mosque has previously been linked to terrorism. Its former imam, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, is serving a life prison term for his involvement in a failed plot to blow up the United Nations and several New York bridges and tunnels.
Al-Moayad, known in Yemen for his charity work and political connections, was arrested Jan. 10 along with his assistant, Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, at a hotel near the Frankfurt, Germany, airport.
The complaint charges Al-Moayad with providing material support to a terrorist network. U.S. authorities, who had previously refused to discuss the case, consider his arrest a blow to Muslim charities used as fronts to finance terrorism.
If convicted in the United States, Al-Moayad would face up to 60 years in prison. Zayed, 29, would face 30 years.
A lawyer for Al-Moayad has accused U.S. authorities of fabricating the charges against his client.
Al-Moayad, a leading member of Yemen's Islamic-oriented Reform party and a former legislator, left Yemen for treatment of diabetes in Germany 10 days before his arrest, Yemeni officials said. His political party has protested the arrest, and Yemen has asked German authorities to return him.
Court papers say U.S. and German authorities learned in December 2001 that Al-Moayad was involved in supplying money and militants for al-Qaida.
An informant who knew Al-Moayad was recruited to lure him to a bugged hotel room, where he was introduced to another informant posing as a wealthy American Muslim. The second informant told al-Moayad he wanted to donate $2 million ``for jihad against American and Zionist governments,'' papers said.
Al-Moayad allegedly claimed he was one of bin Laden's spiritual advisers, and assured the informant that ``the money would be used to support the Mujahideen fighters of both al-Qaida and Hamas,'' the papers said.
In ordering Al-Moayad detained, the German court cited U.S. allegations that he organized festivities in Sana'a, Yemen, on Sept. 19, 2001, for terrorism recruits heading out on suicide missions. The newly unsealed U.S. documents identify the cleric as al-Moayad, although reports in Germany used a different spelling _ al-Moayyed.
The United States has until March 31 to hand over evidence supporting al-Moayad's extradition. The German government would have the final word on extradition.
Besides Abdel Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric, several of those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing worshipped at the Brooklyn mosque. Congregants also included El-Sayyed Nosair, who was convicted in the 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Brooklyn-born Israeli extremist.
``The general impression is that this particular mosque has been home, from time to time, to people who are quite extreme,'' said Hussein Ibish, spokesman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
But he noted that charitable donations are as common in mosques as they are in other places of worship, and that donors often don't know where the money ends up.