Al-Qaeda, LTTE diverting charity funds - US expert

Kolkata, Oct 21: Humanitarian and religious charity for the needy is being used for terrorist activities by groups such as the Tamil Tigers and al-Qaeda, according to a former US official and expert on terrorism funding.

Jammy Gurule, considered an expert on international criminal law, terrorism, terrorist financing and money laundering, spoke mainly about al-Qaeda, but also referred to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in passing.

"There are reports that the LTTE has been able to divert some humanitarian funds (linked to tsunami) for their personal purposes and that does not surprise me since terrorists are creative and intelligent and always looking for new sources of money," Gurule said.

"In the US we have identified 48 charity organisations which were funding terrorist groups like the Hamas or Hizbollah. Osama bin Laden himself said in interviews that Zakat (Islamic concept of charity) should be used for jehad."

"I am not condemning Islamic charity at all. I am saying how the fundamentalists and radicals are making use of this beautiful religion and charity," said Gurule, who until 2003 was an under secretary for enforcement in the US Treasury Department.

"According to different government reports, terrorism experts, NGOs and other sources, al-Qaeda has an annual budget of around USD30 million. It has a global reach with operations in 60 countries."

"When bin Laden was in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001, there was substantial evidence that he was funding the Taliban to provide them al-Qaeda a safe haven," said Gurule, co-author of the book How to Block Terrorist Funds .

"Bin Laden was paying the Taliban USD10 million a year for their basic operations there."

"A lot of charity organisations are being used by terrorists to fund their activities. The US administration has frozen around USD200 million in bank accounts but much more needs to be done."

"The US laws and legislation now have not only focused on banks but have also taken into the definition of banks other financial institutions and expanded them to include a much wider range of businesses dealing with large sums of money and providing several other services to banks," he said.

"Those businesses are also liable now to file suspicious activity reports. Bond and security industries and brokerage firms, in the US, need to know the customer, suspicious activities, etc. Travel agencies are also required to file suspicious activities report," said Gurule.

According to Gurule, though India is an important partner of the US in fighting terrorism, more needs to be done.

"Since there are no major attacks in the past five years post 9/11, even the US has lost the sense of urgency and certain complacency has crept in. We need to remember what happened post 9/11 in other parts of the world. The memory of the international community, including the US, is very short," rued Gurule.

Gurule played diplomatic while referring to Pakistan.

"I donít want to single out a particular country. A country not doing much needs to be engaged and it is a long-term effort. Certain people are criticising the US for its alleged double standards but a lot of things like telephonic conversations, correspondence, meetings and other efforts go on behind the public eye. I can say this, having worked in the government," Gurule said.

Gurule rues the absence of international law or legislation to bind countries in the fight against terrorism.

"We need one international convention on prevention of terrorism. It strikes me as rather ironic that even five years after 9/11 and the long history of terrorism preceding that there has not been an international convention on terrorism."

"I think if we had such a treaty that could go a long way in addressing the question and prosecution of terrorists or their extradition by the signatory states. It would have been a legal obligation. But we donít have a convention."

"I think why we do not have such a convention or law even now is because we are still as an international community unable or unwilling to come to an international definition of terrorism."

"Like the terrorist-freedom fighter dichotomy. I think that is a phony argument. International communities have to agree the fundamental definition that killing innocent civilians in furtherance of ethnic, political and religious ideology is tantamount to terrorism," Gurule said.(Zeenews.Com)


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