Diamonds Osama’s best friend

By WND Staff

United Nations prosecutors confirm al-Qaida has been deeply involved in the African diamond business since before Sept. 11, 2001, confirming a report last year broken by Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND.

A series of witnesses place six top al-Qaida fugitives in Africa buying up diamonds in the run-up to the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a confidential report by U.N.-backed prosecutors obtained by the Associated Press.

The first-person accounts detailed by the prosecutors show al-Qaida laundered millions of dollars in terror funds through African diamonds before launching its deadliest offensive.

The G2 Bulletin report last year said the terrorists have stepped up the use of gold and other precious metals as a means of payment has attracted the attention of intelligence organizations, especially those of the Middle East, or in countries with strong social and economic ties to the Muslim world.

Precious metals are now on the list of items to be monitored even when transferred from country to country in small amounts, at times even as jewelry items. Terrorist financiers and so-called tax collectors for the jihadi cause are known to be active in the major gold markets of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Customs officials in a number of countries including those of the Gulf region have become more vigorous in their attempts to plug the illicit flow of gold. Intelligence sources in Switzerland and in the U.K. are currently involved in major operations aimed at tracking down male and female gold smugglers who try to appear as regular tourists wearing jewelry.

In some cases people were required to list their jewelry and to prove its origins as they were entering countries known to be hubs of both economic activity and Islamic militancy. In some cases carriers of gold claimed the jewelry, especially bracelets, were part of their culture’s traditional way of paying a dowry.

A British Customs and Excise official was quoted by G2 Bulletin saying: “We have increased our surveillance on precious metals trading and we apply more pressure but, when the dealings and transfers are conducted in mosques or madrassas, it is not easy to identify the true nature of the transaction nor to put an end to it.”

As the attempts to stem gold traffic continues terrorists are now more and more involved with the trade of so-called “Blood Diamonds.” Excavation of rough diamonds and the resultant illegal diamond trafficking has become one of the top priorities of intelligence services in Africa and in centers of diamond trading such as Antwerp.

Those problems are mainly the result of shady government officials and diamond smugglers who find their way to diamond-rich countries. In reality control of the illicit diamond trade is difficult since rough diamonds can be carried in small amounts by individuals who not always go through customs as they leave the Congo, for example, or any other of the 13 diamond mining countries in Africa. The term Blood Diamonds is related to the fact dealing with the precious stones, even before they are cut, is used by rebels, guerrilla groups and organized crime rings, to destabilize certain African countries.

An initiative named after the South African diamond mining city Kimberley is a program introduced in May 2000 to stem the flow of Blood Diamonds used by African rebel movements to finance wars between themselves and against governments they strive to topple.

Years of trade in these illicit stones has inflamed conflicts in countries such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone with destructive results. Ninety-eight percent of the world’s diamond trade is conducted under the Kimberley Process regulations according to which participants are required to certify their rough diamonds do not include any Blood Diamonds, or as they are also called Conflict Diamonds. The Kimberley Process has been facing many difficulties. Islamic terrorist groups have joined the illegal trade to finance their own interests and endemic corruption in African governments is endangering full implementation of the plan.

A diplomatic source in Brazzaville said control of the diamond traffic is a difficult task since in many cases diamond digging operations are on a small scale. Diamond dealers involved in the illegal trade come from a variety of countries, predominantly from South Africa where many have developed expertise in this kind of trade. A South African official explained how rough diamonds are mined by workers controlled by gunmen who then transfer small amounts in each delivery to underground markets. The official said he does not believe small scale diamond producers register with the government and that as a matter of fact the larger mining companies also avoid registration as much as they can.

Apparently Brazzaville is now becoming a center of rough diamond trading and an Interpol officer said diamonds are even smuggled into the country so they can be traded in local illegal markets.

Jihadi terrorists disguised as preachers or businessmen are seen regularly in Brazzaville or en route from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to European destinations where their goods are being used to finance terrorist operations. Under the controlling watch of the U.S. Treasury some illegal transactions of Blood Diamonds are detected and apprehended but, there still are too many loopholes through which the trade continues. In the Congo the security service monitors diamond movements, a task becoming more difficult by the year since the diamond production has increased from 988,000 karat in 1961 to an estimated 4.6 million karat by the end of 2003. This fact on it own creates an unholy partnership between diamond diggers, smugglers and organized crime lords, as well as with Islamic terrorists. Funds collected this way are used to purchase weapons and military material to be used in African conflicts and to finance terror activities world wide. An expert on the diamond industry said terrorists are almost always after difficult to trace rough diamonds which are then cut by clandestine, or underground, diamond cutting companies. The police in Belgium believe there are many illegal and unregistered diamond cutters who can operate on a small scale out of their basements.

Diamonds for terrorism find their way to the U.S. via Europe or Latin America. Here again contacts with possible buyers are being achieved through organized crime. This by itself adds to the burden of law enforcement agencies. Diamonds are easy to conceal and hard to detect. A small pouch with a few diamonds can be worth in the excess of thousands of dollars.

In some cases smugglers swallow diamonds packed inside a small acid proof pouch. One customs officials said: “For every high-tech innovation we introduce to detect diamonds the smugglers come up with new concealing methods.” An expert on terrorism funding said the battle between governments, law enforcement and intelligence agencies against the illicit diamond market can be won only if African governments decide to control the trade and, as one Angolan official said: “We have to stop them at the diamond digging site.” This task as suggested by the official is easier said than done. Not only because of the nature of the illegal operation but also due to the fact many mining operations are inside war zones. The U.N. resolution on Blood Diamonds, or as they are also called Conflict Diamonds, is barely practical even on paper although being highly celebrated.

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