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Al-Qaida's diamonds are for never

Posted By Michael Evans On 08/13/2004 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Editor’s note: Mike Evans’ new book, “The American Prophecies,” topped best-seller charts even before its release, knocking Bill Clinton’s “My Life” off the No. 2 spot on Amazon before ascending to No. 1. In his book, Evans explores current events in the light of ancient Scriptures and America’s place in biblical prophecy.

The capture of leading al-Qaida terrorists in Pakistan last month is shedding light on a murderous money trail that stretched from West Africa to the United States long before 9-11 – and still exists today. It is a trail strewn with diamonds.

On July 25, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani – with a U.S. bounty of $25 million on his head – was arrested in Pakistan, along with more than a dozen fellow al-Qaida agents. He is being held for the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. More than 200 people, including 12 Americans, were murdered and some 5,000 wounded in the attacks.

According to reports from Pakistan (Boston Globe, Aug. 4, 2004), for at least three years following the embassy bombings, Ghailani, a Tanzanian in his early 30s, lived in an army camp and hotels run by Liberia’s now deposed strongman, Charles Taylor. Ghailani and his accomplices joined Taylor in the trade in “blood diamonds” – diamonds mined and sold illicitly by rebel groups or terrorist organizations to finance wars and terrorism – raising millions of dollars for al-Qaida, according to U.N. war crimes documents.

The trade has expanded. According to congressional testimony by U.S. Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Central Command (Washington Post, Aug. 3, 2004), al-Qaida and its affiliates have been buying up diamonds for months now in Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger.

Incredibly, despite Wald’s warnings, most of the U.S. intelligence community – principally the CIA – until recently dismissed the reports. Taylor’s ties to al-Qaida have since been corroborated by the FBI and the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, which is investigating crimes against humanity during that country’s civil war.

The Globe also reported that the Defense Department approved a Special Forces raid to capture al-Qaida leaders under Taylor’s protection in 2001, but called it off. Taylor, who was deposed last year, is living in exile in Nigeria under a deal brokered by the United States.

“We have in the process of investigating Charles Taylor … clearly uncovered that he harbored al-Qaida operatives in Monrovia as late as the summer of 2001,” David Crane, the court’s lead prosecutor, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press (June 1, 2004). “The central thread is blood diamonds.”

Hezbollah has also been exploiting the corrupt governments of West Africa to finance its terrorist operations. According to the Post, “They use areas such as West Africa to finance their activities, correctly betting that Western intelligence services do not have the capacity, resources, or interest to track their activities there … Hezbollah has been using diamonds from West Africa to finance its activities since its inception, successfully embedding its financial structure in the diamond trade. Al-Qaida operatives plugged into the same network, bridging the divide between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.”

The move from dollars to diamonds dates from the aftermath of the embassy bombings, according to the Post, when the U.S. government froze some $220 million in Taliban and al-Qaida gold deposited in the Federal Reserve. In response, al-Qaida switched from banks to the ever-liquid commodity of diamonds. According to a March 2003 report by Global Witness, a non-governmental organization that investigates the trade in blood diamonds, Osama bin Laden’s personal secretary was deeply involved in this trade.

The U.N. investigation found that Ghailani was sent to Liberia to coordinate al-Qaida’s diamond trade along with al-Qaida comrades Fazhl Abdullah Muhammad, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. All are wanted for the embassy bombings and are on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.

According to the U.N. probe, published by the Associated Press, ”The corrupt regime of President Charles Taylor of Liberia facilitated access for al-Qaida operatives into Sierra Leone and Liberia in exchange for diamonds and weapons.”

The Globe quoted a U.S. intelligence official who corroborated the U.N.’s main findings, saying, ”Charles Taylor was in the back pocket of al-Qaida.” He added that Taylor was paid at least $1 million by al-Qaida for his trouble.

”For some reason our intelligence people have been very anxious to disprove this as happening, something that can’t be disproved,” said Joseph Melrose, U.S. ambassador to Sierra Leone until September 2001. After meeting with war crimes investigators in February 2004, the FBI finally concluded that al-Qaida had extensive ties to Taylor and his armed forces, the U.N. investigators said. This conclusion came about three years too late: Al-Qaida’s diamond purchases were first reported in the Washington Post in November 2001.

There were “missed opportunities” in the late 1990s, and in the months after 9-11 to dismantle al-Qaida’s blood diamonds operation in Africa, U.S. officials are quoted by the Globe as saying. One of them might have prevented Muhammad from masterminding al-Qaida’s suicide bombing attack on a seaside hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, in November 2002 in which three Israelis and 10 Kenyans were murdered – and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner taking off from Mombasa the same day.

 


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