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Context of '1989-January 1993: Hamas Trains and Fundraises in US'

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Hamas logo.
Hamas logo. [Source: Hamas]Hamas is a Palestinian group known both for charitable works benefiting the Palestinian population and suicide attacks against Israeli targets. Hamas was formed in 1987, after a Palestinian uprising began the year before. Some claim that Israel indirectly supported and perhaps even directly funded Hamas in its early years in order to divide the Palestinians politically. For instance, a former senior CIA official will later claim that Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organization] by using a competing religious alternative.” Hamas begins attacks on Israeli military and civilan targets in 1989 and will begin suicide attacks on these targets in April 1994. The US will not officially declare Hamas a terrorist organization until 1995 (see January 1995). This means that funding Hamas is not a crime in the US before that year, but knowingly participating in or supporting a violent act overseas outside of the rules of war such as a suicide bombing could still potentially result in criminal charges in the US. [United Press International, 6/18/2002; Associated Press, 3/22/2004] Mohammad Salah, a Palestinian-American living in Chicago as a used car salesman, was reputedly trained by Hamas in terrorist techniques, including the use of chemical weapons and poisons, in the late 1980s. Working on the orders of high-level Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, Salah leads a four day Hamas training camp in the Chicago area in June 1990. According to one trainee, the approximately twenty-five trainees study Hamas philosophy, receive weapons training, and learn how to plant a car bomb. Two of the trainees are ultimately selected to fly to Syria, where they undergo more advanced training in making car bombs and throwing grenades. Ultimately, they are sent into Israel to launch attacks. Similar training camps take place in Kansas City and Wisconsin from 1989 through early 1991. Then, Salah is told by Marzouk to change his focus from training to fundraising. In early 1992, Salah receives about $800,000 from Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, and he temporarily invests it in a BMI real estate scheme (see 1991). Between June 1991 and December 1992, Salah repeatedly travels to the Middle East and spends more than $100,000 in direct support of Hamas military activities. He attempts to spend the $800,000 that is still invested in BMI, but BMI is unable to quickly liquidate the investment. Marzouk sends Salah almost $1 million to spend. Salah goes to the West Bank in January 1993 and begins dispersing that money, but he is arrested before the end of the month. With Salah arrested, Hamas needs a new point man to collect and transfer new money raised in the US. Jamil Sarsour, a grocery store owner in Milwaukee, is chosen. It will be reported in 2003 that Sarsour is still living openly in Milwaukee (see June 2-5, 2003) [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/2001; LA Weekly, 8/2/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Mousa Abu Marzouk, Central Intelligence Agency, Jamil Sarsour, Yassin al-Qadi, Mohammad Salah, Hamas, BMI Inc.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In 1991, Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi transfers $820,000 from a Swiss bank account to the Quranic Literacy Institute, a Muslim charity based in Chicago. The charity uses the money to purchase land in Woodridge, a quiet town on the outskirts of Chicago. Al-Qadi claims the money is an interest-free loan for charitable purposes, but in a June 1998 affidavit, FBI agent Robert Wright will claim the investment is designed to produce money for Middle East terrorism. According to the affidavit, most of about $110,000 in income generated from the Woodridge property goes to Mohammad Salah, an admitted operative of Hamas. Salah is said to give $96,000 of this money to another Hamas operative to buy automatic rifles, pistols, and ammunition. In March 1992, al-Qadi will send an additional $27,000 directly to Salah. The institute will sell the Woodridge property for more than they had paid for it, but they will never repay al-Qadi’s $820,000. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002] In June 1998, the US will seize the Quranic Literacy Institute’s assets (see June 9, 1998). In 2004, a US court will rule that the money from al-Qadi’s original investment was used to fund a Hamas attack in 1996 that killed a US citizen (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert G. Wright, Jr., Hamas, Mohammad Salah, Yassin al-Qadi, Quranic Literacy Institute

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammad Salah.Mohammad Salah. [Source: WGN-TV]In January 1993, Mohammad Salah, a Hamas operative living in the US (see 1989-January 1993), is arrested in the West Bank by the Israeli government on suspicion of transferring money to Hamas for guns and ammunition. News reports in February indicate that he is from Chicago and “had been found with more than $100,000 and plans from Hamas leaders in the United States.” Apparently, this causes Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright to begin investigating his fundraising activities (see After January 1993). Salah reportedly quickly confesses to directing certain Hamas military operations, organizing military cells, and to handling more than $1 million to purchase weapons. He names 23 organizations in the US that he says are helping to fund Hamas. He later will claim he was tortured into confessing. One of Salah’s associates is also arrested and reveals the existence of Hamas training camps in the US. Salah secretly will be tried by the Israeli government in 1994 and will plead guilty of the charges in 1995. He will be sentenced to five years in prison and released in 1997. [New York Times, 2/17/1993; Emerson, 2002, pp. 82-83; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Israel, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Mohammad Salah, Hamas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Clinton issues an executive order making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations (see January 24, 1995). He additionally officially declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization and orders a freeze on all Hamas banking assets. It now becomes illegal in the US to donate money to Hamas or its related charities. [New York Times, 1/26/1995; New York Times, 8/16/1995] Surprisingly, the US will not declare al-Qaeda a terrorist organization until October 1999 (see October 8, 1999).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Hamas, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US officially designates Hamas operative Mohammad Salah a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Wright had begun investigating Salah in early 1993 based on Salah’s widely publicized confession (see January 1993). Wright will later claim that he was ready to begin a criminal investigation in 1995, but he was not allowed to do so. Salah, who is serving a five year prison sentence in Israel at this time, will return to Chicago in November 1997 and live openly in the US despite his terrorist designation. Salah will not be charged for the crimes he allegedly committed in the early 1990s (see 1989-January 1993) until 2004 (see August 20, 2004). [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]

Entity Tags: Robert G. Wright, Jr., United States

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A 1996 CIA report shows that US intelligence believes that the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a Saudi charity with strong ties to the Saudi government, is funding a variety of radical militant groups (see January 1996). However, no action is taken against it. Also in 1996, Valerie Donahue, a Chicago FBI agent who is presumably part of Robert Wright’s Vulgar Betrayal investigation, begins looking into Global Chemical Corp., a chemical company that appears to be an investment fraud scheme. The company is jointly owned by the IIRO and Abrar Investments Inc. Suspected terrorism financier Yassin al-Qadi has investments in Abrar Investments and he is also director of its Malaysian corporate parent. Donahue finds that Abrar Investments gave Global Chemical more than half a million dollars, and the IIRO gave it over $1 million. Further, the Saudi embassy has recently sent $400,000 to the IIRO. The president of Global Chemical is Mohammed Mabrook, a Libyan immigrant and suspected Hamas operative. Mabrook had previously worked for a pro-Palestinian group led by Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk. (Marzouk is in US detention from 1995 to May 1997, but he is apparently merely held for deportation and not questioned about matters like Global Chemical (see July 5, 1995-May 1997).) Donahue discovers that Global Chemical is keeping a warehouse full of highly toxic chemicals, but they do not seem to be selling them. In late 1996, a chemical weapons expert examines the chemicals and opines that they appear to be meant for a laboratory performing biochemistry or manufacturing explosives. While no direct evidence of bomb making is found, investigators know that a Hamas associate of Marzouk, Mohammad Salah, had previously trained US recruits to work with “basic chemical materials for the preparation of bombs and explosives.”(see 1989-January 1993) In January 1997, the FBI raids Global Chemical and confiscates the chemicals stockpiled in the warehouse. Mabrook is questioned, then let go. He moves to Saudi Arabia. Abrar Investments vacate their offices and cease operations. In June 1999, Mabrook will return to the US and will be prosecuted. He will be tried on fraud charges for illegal dealings with the IIRO and given a four year sentence. Meanwhile, the IIRO ignores an FBI demand for accounting records to explain how it spent several million dollars that seem to have gone to the IIRO and disappeared. In January 1997, Donahue requests a search warrant to find and confiscate the records, saying that she suspect IIRO officials are engaged in “possible mail and wire fraud… and money laundering.” Apparently, the probe stalls and the financial records are never maintained. Some investigators believe the probe is dropped for diplomatic reasons. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/16/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/29/2003] Investigators will later be prohibited from investigating a possible link between al-Qadi and the 1998 US embassy bombings (see October 1998). After 9/11, the US will apparently have ample evidence to officially label the IIRO a funder of terrorism, but will refrain from doing so for fear of embarrassing the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001).

Entity Tags: Valerie Donahue, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Mabrook, Global Chemical Corp., International Islamic Relief Organization, Yassin al-Qadi, Vulgar Betrayal, Abrar Investments

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

FBI agent Robert Wright, apparently frustrated that his Vulgar Betrayal investigation is not allowed to criminally charge Hamas operative Mohammad Salah and Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, gets a court order to seize $1.4 million in bank accounts and the Chicago house Salah owns. Wright says in the suit that the money is linked directly to al-Qadi and would be destined for terrorist activities. Wright uses a civil forfeiture law that had been frequently used to seize properties and funds of drug dealers or gangsters, but had never been used for accused terrorists. Salah had living in Chicago since his release from an Israeli prison in November 1997. A highly detailed affidavit tracks wire transfers from the US and Switzerland to specific Hamas attacks in Israel. Al-Qadi’s money was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Salah, who is called an important courier and financial agent for Hamas. Then Salah invested the money in BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Some of the money is eventually withdrawn by Salah, brought to the West Bank, and given to Hamas operatives there (see 1989-January 1993). Salah denies the charges and says all the transfers were for charitable causes. Al-Qadi also claims innocence. [New York Times, 6/14/1998; United Press International, 5/30/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002] However, a federal judge agrees to the defendants’ request for a stay order, and the suit is said to “languish” in a Chicago federal court. The funds remain frozen and Salah continues to live in his house. [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/2001] During the summer of 2001, the government will negotiate with Salah to settle the civil case, according to court records. [Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004] The Justice Department will even move ahead with plans to return $1.4 million that Wright had seized from al-Qadi. But the transfer will be set for October 2001, “and the 9/11 attacks came first, prompting wiser minds at Justice to quash the move.” [New York Post, 7/14/2004] But also, in 2000, the parents of a US teenager said to have been killed by a Hamas attack in Israel will sue Salah and others for damaged based on this investigation, and they will win the suit in 2004 (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). The US government will finally arrest Salah in 2004, and will charge him for many of the same offenses described in this 1998 case (see August 20, 2004). As of the end of 2005, al-Qadi has not been charged of any crime.

Entity Tags: BMI Inc., Vulgar Betrayal, US Department of Justice, Al-Qaeda, Mohammad Salah, Hamas, Robert G. Wright, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdelhaleem Ashqar.Abdelhaleem Ashqar. [Source: Paul J. Richards / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]NBS News and ABC News report that Mohammad Salah is living openly in Chicago. The US government had declared Salah a “designated global terrorist,” in 1995 and his name has remained on the list ever since (see February 1995). Salah was convicted in Israel for being a member of Hamas and served five years in prison. Suspected Hamas fundraiser Jamil Sarsour is running a grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. US officials say Sarsour helped finance a string of suicide bus bombings in Israel, including one that killed two Americans. He also spent several years in an Israeli prison in the 1990s. Furthermore, suspected Hamas fundraiser Abdelhaleem Ashqar is working as a professor at Howard University in Washington. NBC additionally reports there are “about two dozen [other] alleged Hamas operatives in the United States now under investigation by the FBI.” FBI agent Robert Wright began investigating these men and others in the early 1990s. For instance, Ashqar organized a secret Hamas fundraising meeting in Philadelphia in the early 1990s that was wiretapped by the FBI (see October 1993). Wright believes Sarsour has been a pivotal figure in sending funds from the US to Hamas overseas since the early 1990s (see 1989-January 1993). Wright claims that the FBI could have moved against Hamas in the US years before 9/11. He says, “The Hamas criminal enterprise has been flourishing since then. These guys are still operating strong today because we’re doing absolutely nothing about it. The FBI has turned a blind eye to what they are doing.” Salah, who had been employed as a college professor in Chicago since February 2002, is fired from his job as a result of these stories. [MSNBC, 6/2/2003; ABC News, 6/5/2003; ABC News, 6/12/2003] But the men are not arrested in the wake of the media reports. Salah and Ashqar will finally be indicted in August 2004 (see August 20, 2004).

Entity Tags: Mohammad Salah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, Jamil Sarsour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

August 20, 2004: Salah Finally Arrested

Mohammad Salah, Mousa Abu Marzouk, and Abdelhaleem Ashqar are indicted on racketeering conspiracy charges. Salah and Ashqar are arrested. Marzouk, considered a high-ranking Hamas leader, is out of reach in Syria. Marzouk had been charged in 2002 on related matters (see December 18, 2002-April 2005). Ashqar was already under house arrest on related charges of contempt and obstruction of justice. The three are accused of using US bank accounts to launder millions of dollars to support Hamas. The indictment alleges the laundered money was used to pay for murders, kidnappings, assaults, and passport fraud. Many of the charges date to the early 1990s (see 1989-January 1993) and had been the subject of legal cases in 1998 and 2000 (see June 9, 1998; May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). [New York Times, 8/21/2004; Associated Press, 8/24/2004] Salah and Ashqar had been living openly in the US for several years. The US had declared Salah a “designated global terrorist” in 1995 and he returned to Chicago in 1997 (see February 1995). The media reported on this in 2003 but they still were not arrested (see June 2-5, 2003). In 1993, Ashqar took part in a secret Hamas meeting in Philadelphia that was wiretapped by the FBI (see October 1993). [ABC News, 6/12/2003; New York Times, 8/21/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohammad Salah, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzouk

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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