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U.S. freezes assets of alleged terrorist backers

The United States froze the assets of two Saudi nationals on Tuesday for allegedly providing support to al-Qaida, and asked the United Nations to take similar action.
/ Source: Reuters

The United States froze the assets of two Saudi nationals on Tuesday for allegedly providing support to al-Qaida, and asked the United Nations to take similar action.

The U.S. Treasury said it had listed the two men — London-based dissident Saad al-Fagih and Adel Batterjee, another Saudi national — as “specially designated global terrorists” for providing financial and material support to al-Qaida and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

“The U.S. is submitting both names to the United Nations (Security Council) 1267 Committee, which will consider adding them to the consolidated list of terrorists tied to al-Qaida, OBL (Osama bin Laden) and the Taliban,” it said in a statement. It added that the two men were not linked to each other.

A senior U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the designation of Batterjee was specially significant. The official said that Saudi Arabia had indicated it would back the United States at the United Nations and that it will cooperate in freezing Batterjee’s assets.

The U.S. official said that Batterjee was believed to be living in Saudi Arabia.

Group challenges Saudi regime
Fagih, who lives in Britain, is a leading Saudi dissident and heads the London-based Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, which says it seeks to topple the monarchy by peaceful means.

His group has recently called for demonstrations in the conservative kingdom, but the protests failed to materialize after blanket security precautions.

Saudi officials accuse Fagih of exploiting social and economic discontent to further a radical Islamic cause, hiding his agenda behind calls for rights and greater accountability.

Fagih told Reuters in London he did not have any assets in the United States, and denied any link to al-Qaida or terrorism.

“I have had no contact or relationship with al-Qaida ... and I challenge any authority to show any real substantive relationship with al-Qaida,” Fagih said.

“We are known for our peaceful policies and we are committed to avoiding any violence or incitement to violence,” he added.

“Due to the pressure we have caused (by the demonstrations) and the danger we have caused for the Saudi regime, it is in the interest of the current U.S. administration to save or rescue the royal family.”

The Treasury statement said Fagih had maintained associations with al-Qaida since the mid-1990s, including an individual linked to the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. It accused Fagih of contact with bin Laden and Khaled al-Fawwaz, whom it called bin Laden’s de facto representative in Britain.

Asked about his relationship with Fawwaz, Fagih said: “Fawwaz has been in jail since 1998. He was in London and we are from the same tribe and the same family, so we knew each other as citizens, no more than that.”

Accused as terrorist financier
The U.S. Treasury said Batterjee had ranked as “one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers, who employed his private wealth and a network of charitable fronts to bankroll the murderous agenda of al-Qaida.”

The Security Council’s 1267 committee reports on al-Qaida and remnants of Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban rulers. It was established in 1999 under resolution 1267 and strengthened after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks against the United States.

The committee has compiled a list of individuals and organizations for which all 191 U.N. member nations are obliged to freeze assets, block travel and prevent the sale of arms and military equipment.

To date, the United States has designated 396 individuals and entities as terrorists or their financiers or facilitators since Sept. 2001. The Treasury statement said the global community had so far frozen over $144 million in terrorist-related assets.