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Profile: Benevolence International Foundation (BIF)
a.k.a. Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya, Jamaat al Birr
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) was a participant or observer in the following events:
The Golden Chain list. [Source: Public domain]In March 2002, authorities in Bosnia, Sarajevo, will raid the offices of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) due to suspected funding of al-Qaeda (see March 2002). The raid will uncover a handwritten list containing the name of twenty wealthy donors sympathetic to al-Qaeda. The list, referred to as “The Golden Chain,” contains both the names of the donors and the names of the recipients (but does not mention amounts given). Seven of the payments are made to Osama bin Laden. [United Press International, 2/11/2003] Most accounts will be vague on what year the Golden Chain document was written; some say 1988. [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003] But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say it dates from 1989. [US Congress, 10/22/2003] Al-Qaeda is formed in late 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). The Wall Street Journal will later note, “The list doesn’t show any continuing support for al-Qaeda after the organization began targeting Americans, but a number of the Saudis on it have been under scrutiny by US officials as to whether they have supported terrorism in recent years.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003] The donors named include:
The “Bin Laden brothers.” Their first names are not mentioned. They give money to Osama bin Laden. UPI will later point out that “the discovery of this document in Sarajevo calls into question whether al-Qaeda has received support from one of Osama’s scores of wealthy brothers.”
Adel Batterjee, a wealthy Saudi businessman who is also the founder of both BIF and its predecessor, Lajnatt Al-Birr Al-Islamiah. He appears to be mentioned as a recipient three times. [United Press International, 2/11/2003] The US will declare him as a terrorist financier in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).
Wael Hamza Julaidan, a Saudi millionaire and one of the founders of al-Qaeda. He is listed as a recipient. The US will declare him a terrorist financier in 2002 (see September 6, 2002).
Saleh Kamel, a Saudi billionaire, and the majority shareholder of the Saudi conglomerate Dallah Albaraka. In 2003, Forbes will call him one of the richest people in the world. The list has him giving money to Batterjee.
Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, another Saudi billionaire. The SAAR network, which is named after him, will be raided by the FBI in 2002 (see March 20, 2002). [Emerson, 2006, pp. 400]
Khalid bin Mahfouz, another Saudi billionaire. A lawyer for bin Mahfouz will later say bin Mahfouz did contribute a small amount to fund the mujaheddin in the late 1980s, but only at the behest of the US and Saudi Arabia. [Wall Street Journal, 3/18/2003]
A map of where BIF operates. Taken from the BIF website, the date of the map is unknown. [Source: BIF] (click image to enlarge)In 1987, Saudi millionaire Adel Batterjee founds the Islamic Benevolence Committee, a charity front supporting the mujaheddin in Afghanistan. In 1998, bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa founds the Benevolence International Corporation export-import company in the Philippines to support militant groups there. In 1992, the two groups merge and create a new Saudi charity called the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). BIF funds charity projects, but its 1999 mission statement says its purpose is to make “Islam supreme on this earth,” and it funds radical militants as well. In 1992, it moves its headquarters to Florida in the US. Then, in 1993, it moves its headquarters again to Chicago. Battargee is replaced as head of the organization by Enaam Arnaout, but Battargee maintains a behind the scenes role. Arnaout fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s and in fact in 1988 the Arab News published a picture of Arnaout and bin Laden together at a mujaheddin camp in Afghanistan. Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen and one of the founder members of al-Qaeda, is made president of BIF. BIF mostly funds regions where Islamist militants are fighting, especially Bosnia and Chechnya. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 45-46] In 1993, bin Laden will privately name BIF as one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993). The US will designate BIF a terrorism financier in 2002 (see March 2002) and will similarly designate Batterjee in 2004 (see December 21, 2004).
Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros in Bosnia in September 1992. His beard is dyed with henna. [Source: Pascal le Segretain / Corbis]Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda financial agent, is sent from bin Laden’s headquarters in Sudan to Zagreb, Croatia, to gather information about the Bosnian war and the prospects of buying businesses in Croatia for al-Qaeda. In Croatia, he meets with Enaam Arnaout (who will soon become the head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US), and al-Qaeda operatives Abu Abdel Aziz Barbaros (a.k.a. Abdel Rahman al Dosari), and Abu Zubair al Madani, one of bin Laden’s cousins (he will later be killed fighting in Bosnia). Barbaros tells al-Fadl that al-Qaeda is seeking to create training camps in Bosnia, develop relationships with Bosnian charities, and establish businesses to help finance al-Qaeda activities. He says that BIF is providing money for al-Qaeda to buy weapons to use in Bosnia and that they have already obtained some weapons from Germany with the help of BIF and Mohammed Loay Bayazid (who also works for BIF in the US). According to a later Justice Department indictment, Barbaros also says that “al-Qaeda’s goal in Bosnia [is] to establish a base for operations in Europe against al-Qaeda’s true enemy, the United States.” Around this time, BIF begins providing food, clothing, money and communications equipment to fighters in Bosnia, including the elite Black Swans unit. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 24-25 ; Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 16-17] In 1996, al-Fadl will defect from al-Qaeda and tell all he knows to US investigators (see June 1996-April 1997).
Al-Hajj Boudella. [Source: Public domain via National Public Radio]Enaam Arnaout, head of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) in the US and an al-Qaeda operative, personally arranges for nine elite instructors from the Al-Sadda training camp in Afghanistan to be sent to central Bosnia to train mujaheddin there. One of the trainers is Al-Hajj Boudella, who will become the long-time director of the BIF’s office in Bosnia. He will be arrested shortly after 9/11 and renditioned to the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2002 (see January 18, 2002). [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 19-20, 255]
The Guardian reports in May 1993 that the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (then known as Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya) has been closed in Saudi Arabia and “its head, Adel Batterjee, a known political activist, has been detained by the police.” The Guardian hints that the shut down is related to pressure from the Egyptian government. This is possibly the only instance of the Saudis shutting down a charity before 9/11. [Guardian, 5/5/1993] Al-Qaeda will determine later in the year that the shut down was because the Saudis had found a link between BIF and al-Qaeda, but an operative will report that the problem has been fixed. [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] Batterjee is also mentioned in a 1992 New York Times article as the chairman of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), flying wounded Saudis fighting in the Bosnian war and giving them free medical treatment. [New York Times, 12/5/1992] BIF stops operating in Saudi Arabia but expands its operations in the US (see 1992-1993). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] The FBI will not begin to seriously investigate it until 1998 (see 1998). US agents will raid WAMY offices in 2004 for suspected ties to radical militants (see June 1, 2004).
Qatar Charitable Society logo. [Source: Qatar Charitable Society]Osama bin Laden privately identifies the three most important charity fronts used to finance al-Qaeda. He names:
The Muslim World League (MWL), a Saudi charity closely tied to the Saudi government.
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), a charity based in Chicago, Illinois.
The Qatar Charitable Society (QCS). Al-Qaeda apparently will stop using this organization after it is publicly linked to an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 (see Shortly After June 26, 1995).
Bin Laden tells this to Jamal al-Fadl, who is helping to run bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan. A Justice Department brief will later explain, “[Al-Fadl] understood from conversations with bin Laden and others in al-Qaeda that the charities would receive funds that could be withdrawn in cash and a portion of the money used for legitimate relief purposes and another portion diverted for al-Qaeda operations. The money for al-Qaeda operations would nevertheless be listed in the charities’ books as expenses for building mosques or schools or feeding the poor or the needy.” [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] In 1996, al-Fadl will quit al-Qaeda and tell US investigators all he knows about the organization and its finances (see June 1996-April 1997). Yet the US has yet to list the MWL or QCS as terrorism financiers, and will wait until 2002 before listing BIF. The US knew about the MWL’s support for radical militants even before al-Fadl defected (see January 1996), but its ties to the Saudi government has repeatedly protected it (see October 12, 2001).
Adham Amin Hassoun. [Source: CBS News]The FBI interviews Adham Amin Hassoun, a Muslim community activist living in Florida. The year before, Hassoun had filed Florida incorporation papers for the first American chapter of the Islamic charity Benevolence International (BIF), listing wealthy Saudi businessman Adel Batterjee as the president. The FBI shows him photographs of suspects in the World Trade Center bombing and asks him if he could recognize the people. At this interview or a later one, he is also asked about Enaam Arnaout, who will take control of Benevolence International after it moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1994. After 9/11, Hassoun will be questioned again for alleged ties with so-called “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla. Hassoun and Padilla were acquaintances in Florida since the early 1990s. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/13/2002] The FBI begins monitoring Hassoun and some of his associates, including Padilla, in October 1993 (see (October 1993-November 2001)). Benevolence International will later be connected to al-Qaeda and shut down, but only after 9/11.
Neil Herman. [Source: Paul Schneck Photography]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center is bin Laden’s largest fundraising group in the US and has offices in many cities (see 1986-1993 and 1985-1989). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later call it “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” [Emerson, 2006, pp. 436] Nearly every figure involved in the 1993 WTC bombing has a connection to the Al-Kifah branch in Brooklyn, New York. [Newsweek, 3/29/1993] Bob Blitzer, a former FBI terrorism chief who heads the FBI’s first Islamic terrorism squad, is stunned to discover the number of militants connected to Al-Kifah who have left the US to fight for Muslim causes overseas. He will later remember thinking, “What the hell’s going on?” Neil Herman, head of the FBI’s WTC bombing investigation, will comment, “It was like a modern underground railroad.” But no effort is made to keep track of who has gone overseas to fight, even though many of the WTC bombers had gone overseas to fight then came back to use their training to plan an attack in the US. Furthermore, the Al-Kifah office in Brooklyn shuts itself down, but all the other branch offices remain open. US News and World Report will later note that the offices “were left largely intact [and] helped form the nucleus of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.” Herman will say, “They certainly continued on, but were somewhat fragmented.” Over time, the other branches generally go underground. Soon their functions are largely replaced by a network of Islamic charities. For instance, the functions of the Brooklyn branch, including its newsletter and website, are directly taken over by a new Boston-based charity called Care International (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Another charity is the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), run by Enaam Arnaout, who is a veteran of the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office. [US News and World Report, 6/2/2002] The US will not freeze the assets of Al-Kifah until shortly after 9/11, long after all the US branches have dissolved (see September 24, 2001). There is evidence to suggest that the CIA had ties to Al-Kifah and blocked FBI investigations of it (see Late 1980s and After).
Kifah Wael Jayyousi. [Source: Robert A. Reeder]A Florida cell of Islamic radicals carries out fundraising, training, and recruitment to support the global jihad movement. The group is monitored by the FBI from the early 1990s, but no action is taken against it until after 9/11. The cell’s most prominent members are Adham Amin Hassoun, Mohammed Hesham Youssef, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, Kassem Daher, and Jose Padilla. Adnan Shukrijumah may also be involved (see (Spring 2001)).
Both Hassoun and Jayyousi are associates of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman and the FBI monitors telephone conversations between them and Abdul-Rahman from January 1993 to 1995, at least. After Abdul-Rahman is taken into police custody in July 1993, according to an FBI agent, Jayyousi calls Abdul-Rahman in jail to “update the sheikh with jihad news, many times reading accounts and statements issued directly by terrorist organizations.” [St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 126-8; Associated Press, 4/8/2006; International Herald Tribune, 1/4/2007]
Funds are provided through bank accounts of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), the Canadian Islamic Association, and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), for which Hassoun files incorporation papers in Florida. The cell pays out thousands of dollars in checks, some of which are marked “Chechnya”, “Kosovo,” or “for tourism”.
They try to talk in code, but the code is unsophisticated; for example “tourism” apparently means “terrorism”. In addition, they are not very careful and in one conversation overheard by the FBI, which records tens of thousands of their conversations from the early 1990s, one plotter asks another if he has enough “soccer equipment” to “launch an attack on the enemy.” In another, the conspirators discuss a $3,500 purchase of “zucchini” in Lebanon.
Cell members are involved in jihad, through funding or direct participation, in Egypt, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya, Kosovo, the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
They are involved with both bin Laden and Chechen leader Ibn Khattab; for example, in one conversation Youssef tells Hassoun that he would be traveling “there at Osama’s and… Khattab’s company.” [Indictment. United States v. Jose Padilla, 11/17/2005 ]
They publish the Islam Report, a radical magazine about jihad. [Associated Press, 4/8/2006]
It is unclear why the FBI monitors the cell for almost a decade before doing anything. However, some of their activities are focused on Bosnia, where the US is turning a blind eye, or even actively assisting Islamic militants fighting on the Bosnian side (see 1992-1995 and April 27, 1994). The cell is broken up in the months after 9/11, and Hassoun, Jayyousi, and Padilla are sent for trial, which begins in 2007. [International Herald Tribune, 1/4/2007]
Entity Tags: Mohamed Hesham Youssef, Adnan Shukrijumah, Adham Amin Hassoun, Kifah Wael Jayyousi, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Kassem Daher, Jose Padilla, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Canadian Islamic Association, Benevolence International Foundation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Benevolence International Foundation logo. [Source: Benevolence International Foundation]One of the founders of al-Qaeda is arrested in the US and then let go. Mohammed Loay Bayazid is arrested in Morgan Hills, California, together with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (see December 16, 1994-May 1995), Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a known terrorism financier, and Salem bin Laden, one of Osama’s brothers (see December 16, 1994). Bayazid was born in Syria but moved to the US with his parents as a teenager and became a US citizen. In the mid-1980s he went to fight in Afghanistan and befriended bin Laden. He was one of the original members of al-Qaeda and took the notes during the group’s founding meeting in 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988). Bayazid moved with bin Laden to Sudan in the early 1990s and has been called bin Laden’s main business adviser there. In 1993, it is believed he was involved in an al-Qaeda effort to purchase nuclear material. By 1994, Bayazid moved back to the US and became the president of the Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), a charity suspected of links to al-Qaeda. [Kansas City Star, 9/9/2006] The driver’s license he shows for identification when arrests gives the Chicago office of BIF as his residence. [USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout, 4/29/2002, pp. 16-17 ] But surprisingly given Bayazid’s history, he is released not long after his arrest in California. Lorenzo Vidino, an expert on Islamic militants, will later investigate Bayazid but is never able to determine when he was released, why, or where he went after that. [Kansas City Star, 9/9/2006] There is evidence he stays in the US until April 1998, and then moves to Turkey. Bayazid will eventually reappear in Susan, where he will be interviewed by the FBI shortly after 9/11 (see November 2001). He apparently still operates several businesses there. He denies ever having any connection to terrorism. [Chicago Sun-Times, 5/1/2002; Kansas City Star, 9/9/2006]
On July 4, 1995, six Western tourists are kidnapped in Kashmir, India. A Norwegian is soon found beheaded while an American manages to escape. The remaining hostages, two British, one German, and one American, are never found and are apparently killed in December 1995. The kidnapping is executed by an alias of the Pakistani militant group later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. The kidnappers demand the release of a number of jailed Islamists, including Saeed Sheikh and Maulana Masood Azhar, both imprisoned in India (see November 1994-December 1999). Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna claims the leaders of the operation were trained by al-Qaeda. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 284-285] In January 1996, a secret CIA report will say that, according to a foreign intelligence agency, Enaam Arnaout, the US director of the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), was in Pakistan and matches the description of a man involved in the kidnapping who then left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the US. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] Yet despite this information, the US will take no action against Arnaout or BIF. The US will not even designate Harkat ul-Mujahedeen until over two years after the kidnapping. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 284-285] An airplane hijacking in 1999 will free Azhar and Sheikh (see December 24-31, 1999).
International Islamic Relief Organization logo.
[Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]The CIA creates a report for the State Department detailing support for terrorism from prominent Islamic charities. The report, completed just as the Bosnian war is winding down, focuses on charity fronts that have helped the mujaheddin in Bosnia. It concludes that of more than 50 Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in existence, “available information indicates that approximately one-third… support terrorist groups or employ individuals who are suspected of having terrorist connections.” The report notes that most of the offices of NGOs active in Bosnia are located in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. There are coordination councils there organizing the work of the charity fronts. The report notes that some charities may be “backed by powerful interest groups,” including governments. “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.” The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “Disclosure of the report may raise new questions about whether enough was done to cut off support for terrorism before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001… and about possible involvement in terrorism by Saudi Arabian officials.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996; Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] The below list of organizations paraphrases or quotes the report, except for informational asides in parentheses.
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). “The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League, a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.” The IIRO has funded Hamas, Algerian radicals, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. the Islamic Group, an Egyptian radical militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman), Ramzi Yousef, and six militant training camps in Afghanistan. “The former head of the IIRO office in the Philippines, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the Pope and US airlines; his brother-in-law is Osama bin Laden.”
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. It has connections to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and helps support the mujaheddin battalion in Zenica. Their offices have been connected to smuggling, drug running, and prostitution.
Human Concern International, headquartered in Canada. Its Swedish branch is said to be smuggling weapons to Bosnia. It is claimed “the entire Peshawar office is made up of [Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya] members.” The head of its Pakistan office (Ahmed Said Khadr) was arrested recently for a role in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan (see November 19, 1995). (It will later be discovered that Khadr is a founder and major leader of al-Qaeda (see Summer 2001 and January 1996-September 10, 2001).)
Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Headquartered in Sudan, it has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. “The regional director of the organization, Elfatih Hassanein, is the most influential [charity] official in Bosnia. He is a major arms supplier to the government, according to clandestine and press reporting, and was forced to relocate his office from Zagreb in 1994 after his weapons smuggling operations were exposed. According to a foreign government service, Hassanein supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” One TWRA employee alleged to also be a member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a suicide car bombing in Rijeka, Croatia (see October 20, 1995).
The Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA). Based in Sudan, it has offices in 30 countries. It is said to be controlled by Sudan’s ruling party and gives weapons to the Bosnian military in concert with the TWRA. (The US government will give the IARA $4 million in aid in 1998 (see February 19, 2000).)
Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (the report refers to it by an alternate name, Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya (LBI)). It supports mujaheddin in Bosnia. It mentions “one Zagreb employee, identified as Syrian-born US citizen Abu Mahmud,” as involved in a kidnapping in Pakistan (see July 4, 1995). [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] (This is a known alias (Abu Mahmoud al Suri) for Enaam Arnaout, the head of BIF’s US office.) [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003, pp. 37 ] This person “matches the description… of a man who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir in July 1995, and who left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the United States.”
Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), a.k.a. Al-Kifah. This group has ties to Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and possibly Hezbollah. Both the former director of its Zagreb office [Kamer Eddine Kherbane] and his deputy [Hassan Hakim] were senior members of Algerian extremist groups. Its main office in Peshawar, Pakistan, funds at least nine training camps in Afghanistan. “The press has reported that some employees of MAK’s New York branch were involved in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993].” (Indeed, the New York branch, known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, is closely linked to the WTC bombing and the CIA used it as a conduit to send money to Afghanistan (see January 24, 1994).
Muwafaq Foundation. Registered in Britain but based in Sudan, it has many offices in Bosnia. It has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and “helps fund the Egyptian Mujahedin Battalion in Bosnia” and “at least one training camp in Afghanistan” (see 1991-1995).
Qatar Charitable Society, based in Qatar. It has possible ties to Hamas and Algerian militants. A staff member in Qatar is known to be a Hamas operative who has been monitored discussing militant operations. (An al-Qaeda defector will later reveal that in 1993 he was told this was one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993)).
Red Crescent (Iran branch). Linked to the Iranian government, it is “Often used by the Iranian [intelligence agency] as cover for intelligence officers, agents, and arms shipments.”
Saudi High Commission. “The official Saudi government organization for collecting and disbursing humanitarian aid.” Some members possibly have ties to Hamas and Algerian militants (see 1996 and After).
Other organizations mentioned are the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) (a.k.a. the International Humanitarian Relief Organization), Kuwait Joint Relief Committee (KJRC), the Islamic World Committee, and Human Appeal International. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
After 9/11, former National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will say that the NSC repeatedly questioned the CIA with inquiries about charity fronts.
“We knew there was a big problem between [charities] and militants. The CIA report “suggests they were on the job, and, frankly, they were on the job.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/9/2003] However, very little action is taken on the information before 9/11. None of the groups mentioned will be shut down or have their assets seized.
Entity Tags: Muwafaq Foundation, Muslim World League, National Security Council, Saudi High Commission, Red Crescent (Iran branch), Qatar Charitable Society, US Department of State, Third World Relief Agency, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Islamic World Committee, Islamic African Relief Agency, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Ahmed Said Khadr, Benevolence International Foundation, Central Intelligence Agency, Daniel Benjamin, Elfatih Hassanein, International Islamic Relief Organization, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, Human Appeal International, Foundation for Human Rights, Hamas, Saudi Arabia
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
A Bosnian Muslim named Munib Zahiragic joins Bosnia’s Muslim secret police by mid-1995, while he is also working for the Sarajevo office of the US-based charity Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). By September 1996, he is stealing top secret documents and giving them to Enaam Arnaout, the US executive director of BIF and also linked to al-Qaeda. He gives Arnaout hundreds of documents about mujaheddin and al-Qaeda operatives. Arnaout then passes them on to al-Qaeda, allowing many to avoid capture. For instance, high-ranking al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is tipped off that investigators are onto him when he visits Bosnia in 1998 (see May 7, 1998). After Zahiragic leaves the secret police in June 2000, he works full time for BIF. In March 2002, Bosnian police will raid the BIF’s Sarajevo office, arrest Zahiragic, and discover weapons, booby traps, fake passports, and bomb making plans. A raid on another BIF office at the same time will uncover the stolen documents. Zahiragic is convicted of espionage in Bosnia a year later but he is only sentenced to two years in prison. [Associated Press, 6/30/2003; Schindler, 2007, pp. 288-289] Despite his arrest, Bosnian intelligence agencies remain completely penetrated by others. Highly classified Bosnian documents are sometimes found with Islamist militants in Bosnia and are even published in militant newsletters. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 312-313]
The FBI begins an investigation into the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) by chance. A Chicago FBI agent is attending a conference in Washington, DC, and learns of foreign intelligence reports that BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout was involved in providing logistical support for radical militants. It is not clear why the Chicago office near BIF’s headquarters was not already informed about BIF and Arnaout, given what US intelligence already knows by this time: [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 95 ]
Beginning in 1993, the FBI was continually monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Florida that sends money to militants overseas using BIF bank accounts, and one of the cell members filed BIF’s incorporation papers (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The FBI interviewed one of the cell members, Adham Amin Hassoun, and asked him about BIF and Arnaout. BIF founder Adel Batterjee was listed on the incorporation papers (see 1993).
It was reported in the Guardian and other newspapers in 1993 that BIF was shut down in Saudi Arabia, when closing a charity was a highly unusual move for that country. The Guardian says that BIF founder Batterjee, “a known political activist,” has been detained. Media reports also link him to assisting Saudi fighters in the Bosnian war (see 1993).
In 1994, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, president of BIF at the time, was arrested in the US with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and another of bin Laden’s brothers. Khalifa was quickly linked to the Bojinka plot and many other al-Qaeda ties and plots, yet all three were let go and Bayaid continued to work at BIF until 1998. Bayazid was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see December 16, 1994).
In early 1996, a secret CIA report suggested that Arnaout was involved in the kidnapping and murders of a small group of Western tourists in Kashmir, including Americans (see July 4, 1995). The report also links BIF to other militant charity fronts and extremists, including the commander of a training camp in Afghanistan. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
In 1996, trusted al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl revealed that bin Laden considered BIF one of its three most important charity fronts (see 1993), and the FBI was heavily involved in debriefing al-Fadl for many months (see June 1996-April 1997). Al-Fadl also met with Arnaout and other al-Qaeda leaders in Bosnia and discussed many operations, including how to use Bosnia to establish a base to fight the US (see Autumn 1992).
In 1996, al-Fadl also revealed that BIF president Bayazid took part in an al-Qaeda attempt to buy enriched uranium (see Late 1993).
In early 1998, Bayazid moves to Turkey and works with Maram, an al-Qaeda front company involving a number of well-known al-Qaeda figures. US intelligence learns of calls between BIF headquarters in Illinois and Bayazid in Turkey (see November 1996-September 1998).
These agents will open a full field investigation into BIF in February 1999 (see February 1999-September 10, 2001). They will later learn some useful information from the CIA, but just what is unclear. The 9/11 Commission will say that the “CIA held back some information” from these agents, supposedly “because of fears of revealing sources and methods in any potential criminal litigation…” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 96 ]
In 1998, Saif al-Islam al-Masri, a member of al-Qaeda’s ruling military council, is appointed Benevolence International Foundation’s (BIF) officer in Grozny, Chechnya. BIF is a US-based charity with numerous ties to al-Qaeda that is being investigated by the FBI at this time (see 1998). It will be shut down in late 2001 (see December 14, 2001). From 1995 to 2001, BIF provides money, anti-mine boots, camouflage military uniforms, and other supplies to the Chechen rebels who are fighting the Russian army. BIF is particularly close to Ibn Khattab, the Chechen warlord linked to Osama bin Laden, and BIF is even mentioned on Khattab’s website at the time, as a charity to use to give to the Chechen cause. The BIF office in Baku, Azerbaijan, which serves as support to nearby Chechnya, is manned by a member of a militant group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan warlord closely linked to al-Qaeda. In 1999, Enaam Arnaout, head of BIF’s US office, tours Chechnya and reports on the roles al-Islam, Khattab, and others are playing there. US intelligence is aware of al-Islam’s al-Qaeda role at this time, and recovered his passport photo in a raid on the house of al-Qaeda leader Wadih El-Hage in Kenya in 1997 (see August 21, 1997). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] El-Hage was monitored talking on the phone to al-Islam in 1996 and 1997. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001] However, either US intelligence failed to notice al-Islam’s link to BIF at the time, or failed to do anything about it. It is not known when he stops working for BIF. He will not be captured until 2002, when US forces help catch him just outside of Chechnya (see Early October 2002).
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer), a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader, visits Bosnia for unknown reasons and connects with a charity suspected of financing bin Laden’s organization. Salim was one of the founders of al-Qaeda and will be arrested in Germany later in the year (see September 16, 1998) and charged in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Records show that the Bosnia branch of the US-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) sponsored Salim’s visa, reserved him an apartment, and identified him as one of its directors. A BIF mole in Bosnian intelligence is able to tip off Salim that investigators are onto him, so he is not caught (see September 1996-June 2000). Intelligence officials will question BIF officers about Salim’s trip in early 2000, but the reason for the trip remains a mystery. [New York Times, 6/14/2002]
Now living in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa keeps in contact with charity fronts and militant groups he helped to organize. According to a Philippines police report, he maintains contact with:
Leaders of the Philippine militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Abdul Salam Zubair, who was a key employee in the IRIC (International Relations and Information Center), a charity front used in the Bojinka plot (see Spring 1995). By this time, Zubair is working with Khalifa Trading Industries in Manila with other Khalifa associates.
The staff of the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) in the Philippines. Many of its staffers, including its Philippines coordinator, are also believed to be Hamas operatives. The US will designate the chapter a terrorist financier in 2006 (see August 3, 2006).
Ibrahim Mata, the head of Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance (ISCAG), in the Philippines.
- - The Philippine chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 194]
The Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). In a post-9/11 trial in the US, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will allege that the Illinois office of BIF calls Khalifa in Saudi Arabia as recently as November 19, 1998. [USA v. Benevolence International Foundation and Enaam M. Arnaout, 4/29/2002, pp. 14, 21-22 ] The US will officially designate BIF a terrorism financier in 2002. Khalifa also still visits the Philippines periodically (see Late 1995-September 11, 2001).
Entity Tags: International Relations and Information Center, Benevolence International Foundation, Abu Sayyaf, Abdul Salam Zubair, Hamas, International Islamic Relief Organization, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Muslim Brotherhood, Khalifa Trading Industries, Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance, Ibrahim Mata
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
The FBI’s Chicago office opens a full field investigation into the Illinois based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), after one of its agents stumbled across links between BIF and radical militants while attending a conference. The CIA and FBI already have extensive evidence linking BIF to al-Qaeda from a variety of sources but how much of that is shared with the Chicago office after they start their investigation is unclear (see 1998). Chicago FBI agents begin looking through BIF’s trash and learn much, since BIF officials throw out their phone records and detailed reports without shredding them. They also cultivate a source who gives them some useful information about BIF, but apparently no smoking guns. But they run into many difficulties:
In the summer of 1999, the FBI sends a request to the Saudi government asking for information about Adel Batterjee, the founder of BIF, but they get no reply before 9/11.
In April 2000, they apply for a FISA warrant so they can conduct electronic surveillance, but it is not approved until after 9/11. It has not been explained why there was such a long delay.
They discover the bank account numbers of the BIF’s overseas offices and ask for help from other US intelligence agencies to trace the money, but they never hear back about this before 9/11.
They submit a request to an allied European country for information about European intelligence reports linking BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout to the kidnapping and murders of Americans in Kashmir in 1995. But they never even receive an acknowledgment that the request was received (see July 4, 1995).
A European intelligence agency invites the Chicago agents to a meeting to share information about BIF, but the agents are not allowed to go as their superiors say they cannot afford to send them. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 96-98 ]
BIF will not be shut down until shortly after 9/11 (see December 14, 2001).
Adnan Shukrijumah. [Source: FBI]The FBI investigates Adnan Shukrijumah, an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001), in connection with a South Florida-based Islamic militant group that is plotting to recruit operatives and finance attacks and assassinations in the Middle East (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The group includes Jose Padilla associates Adham Amin Hassoun and Mohammed Hesham Youssef, and is connected to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and the suspect charity Benevolence International Foundation (see 1988-1989). Shukrijumah keeps his distance from the core plotters and despite FBI wiretaps on the group’s phones, the FBI is unable to establish a firm connection between him and the plans. Shukrijumah is also being investigated over a plot to attack various businesses in Florida and blow up Mount Rushmore around this time (see April-May 2001). The FBI later determines that Shukrijumah is a top al-Qaeda operative and will issue a $5 million reward for his capture (see March 21, 2003 and After). [US News and World Report, 4/7/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 11/23/2003; Los Angeles Times, 9/3/2006]
Aafia Siddiqui. [Source: FBI]In 1993, the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn, New York, disbanded after media reports revealed that it had ties to all of the 1993 WTC bombers as well as the CIA (see 1986-1993), but it quickly reappeared in Boston under the new name Care International. Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson had warned the government of the name change since 1993 (see April 1993-Mid-2003). But apparently US investigators only start looking closely at Care International shortly after 9/11, when the FBI interviews several current and former employees. [Wall Street Journal, 11/21/2001] Around the same time, the Fleet National Bank in Boston files a “suspicious-activity report” (SARS) with the US Treasury Department about wire transfers from the Saudi Embassy in Washington to Aafia Siddiqui, a long-time member of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center and then Care International, and her husband Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan. Fleet National Bank investigators discover that one account used by the Boston-area couple shows repeated on-line credit card purchases from stores that “specialize in high-tech military equipment and apparel.” Khan purchased body armor, night-vision goggles, and military manuals, and then sent them to Pakistan. The bank also investigates two transfers totaling $70,000 sent on the same day from the Saudi Armed Forces Account used by the Saudi Embassy at the Riggs Bank in Washington to two Saudi nationals living in Boston. One of the Saudis involved in the transfers lists the same Boston apartment number as Siddiqui’s. The bank then notices that Siddiqui regularly gives money to the Benevolence International Foundation, which will soon be shut down for al-alleged Qaeda ties. They also discover her connection to Al-Kifah. The bank then notices Siddiqui making an $8,000 international wire transfer on December 21, 2001, to Habib Bank Ltd., “a big Pakistani financial institution that has long been scrutinized by US intelligence officials monitoring terrorist money flows.” [Newsweek, 4/7/2003] In April or May 2002, the FBI questions Siddiqui and Khan for the first time and asks them about their purchases. [Boston Globe, 9/22/2006] But the two don’t seem dangerous, as Siddiqui is a neuroscientist who received a PhD and studied at MIT, while Khan is a medical doctor. Plus they have two young children and Siddiqui is pregnant. There are no reports of US intelligence tracking them or watch listing them. Their whole family moves to Pakistan on June 26, 2002, but then Siddiqui and Khan get divorced soon thereafter. Siddiqui comes back to the US briefly by herself from December 25, 2002, to January 2, 2003. On March 1, 2003, Pakistan announces that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has been captured (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). Some days later, Siddiqui drives away from a family house in Pakistan and disappears. Some later media reports will claim that she is soon arrested by Pakistani agents but other reports will deny it. Reportedly, KSM quickly confesses and mentions her name as an al-Qaeda sleeper agent, working as a “fixer” for other operatives coming to the US. On March 18, the FBI puts out a worldwide alert for Siddiqui and her ex-husband Khan, but Khan has completely disappeared as well. Siddiqui will be arrested in Afghanistan in 2008 (see July 17, 2008). [Vanity Fair, 3/2005] The CIA will later report that Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi), a nephew of KSM and a reputed financier of the 9/11 attacks, married Siddiqui not long before her disappearance. Furthermore, in 2002 he ordered Siddiqui to help get travel documents for Majid Kahn (no relation to Siddiqui’s first husband), who intended to blow up gas stations and bridges or poison reservoirs in the US. It will also be alleged that Siddiqui bought diamonds in Africa for al-Qaeda in the months before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 9/22/2006] The Saudi Embassy will later claim that the wire transfers connected to Siddiqui were for medical assistance only and the embassy had no reason to believe at the time that anyone involved had any connection to militant activity. [Newsweek, 4/7/2003] Although Siddiqui seems to have ties with two key figures in the 9/11 plot and was living in Boston the entire time some 9/11 hijackers stayed there, there are no known links between her and any of the hijackers.
Entity Tags: Mohammed Amjad Khan, US Department of the Treasury, Steven Emerson, Riggs Bank, Majid Khan, Habib Bank Ltd., Fleet National Bank, Aafia Siddiqui, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Benevolence International Foundation, Care International (Boston), Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Saudi Embassy (US)
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
US intelligence had been investigating the US-based Global Relief Foundation (GRF) long before 9/11 for links to al-Qaeda and other radical militant groups (see 1997-Late Spring 2001 and March 2000).The plan is to shut down a number of GRF’s overseas offices while continuing to monitor the GRF’s main office in Illinois and see how that office reacts to the overseas shutdowns. But on December 13, 2001, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon calls the Illinois office one day before the planned raids and asks them to comment about an imminent crack down on the charity (see December 3-14, 2001). The FBI quickly decides that the GRF is destroying documents after the tip-off, and they hastily arrange a raid on the Illinois office and the overseas offices the next day. Since the GRF and the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) are considered to be closely linked, the BIF US office is raided and shut down at the same time, and the houses of GRF executive director Mohammad Chehade and BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout are searched. GRF fund-raiser Rabih Haddad is detained on the basis of overstaying a visa while Arnaout remains free in the US. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 98-100 ] October 18, 2002, the Treasury Department will officially designate GRF a terrorism financier. It will do the same to BIF on November 19, 2002. The UN also soon lists both groups as linked to al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 98-100 ] Haddad will be imprisoned for 19 months and then deported for the immigration violation. [Metro Times, 3/17/2004]
In March 2002, the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) office in Sarajevo, Bosnia, is raided by US and Bosnian agents and a “treasure trove” of documents are found. One document found is the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989). Enaam Arnaout is living in the US as head of BIF, but the Sarajevo investigators discover letters between him and bin Laden, including a handwritten note by bin Laden authorizing Arnaout to sign documents on his behalf. Arnaout prepares to flee the US, but is arrested. On November 19, 2002, the US declares BIF a terrorist financier and its Chicago office is closed down. In February 2003, Arnaout pleas guilty to working with al-Qaeda, but US prosecutors agree to drop the charges against him in return for information. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 46-47]
Deena Burnett, wife of Flight 93 passenger Tom Burnett, speaks on behalf of the victims’ relatives suing the Saudis. [Source: Associated Press]More than 600 relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks file a 15-count, $1 trillion lawsuit against various parties they accuse of financing al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime. The number of plaintiffs will quickly increase to 2,500 after the suit is widely publicized. Up to 10,000 were eligible to join this suit. The lawsuit does not allege that Saudi defendants directly participated in the 9/11 attacks, or approved them. Instead, it is alleged they helped fund and sustain al-Qaeda, which enabled the attacks to occur. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002; Newsweek, 9/13/2002] Defendants named include:
The Saudi Binladin Group, the conglomerate owned by the bin Laden family. [CNN, 8/15/2002]
The National Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in Saudi Arabia. [Associated Press, 8/15/2002]
The government of Sudan, for letting bin Laden live in that country until 1996. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
The World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
The SAAR Foundation. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., which the plaintiffs contend is the primary bank for a number of charities that funnel money to terrorists. (This bank will later be dismissed from the suit (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
The Benevolence International Foundation. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and its parent organization, the Muslim World League (MWL). The suit claims that the IIRO gave more than $60 million to the Taliban. [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
Khalid bin Mahfouz, one-time prominent investor in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) who had to pay a $225 million fine following the collapse of that bank. It is claimed he later operated a bank that funneled millions of dollars to charities controlled by al-Qaeda. (Mahfouz denies supporting terrorism and has filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.) [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
Mohammed al Faisal al Saud, a Saudi prince. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Washington Post, 8/16/2002]
Prince Turki al-Faisal, former chief of Saudi intelligence. (His name will later be dismissed from the suit because of diplomatic immunity (see November 14, 2003-September 28, 2005).) [Washington Post, 8/16/2002] “The attorneys and investigators were able to obtain, through French intelligence, the translation of a secretly recorded meeting between representatives of bin Laden and three Saudi princes in which they sought to pay him hush money to keep him from attacking their enterprises in Saudi Arabia.” [CNN, 8/15/2002] The plaintiffs also accuse the US government of failing to pursue such institutions thoroughly enough because of lucrative oil interests. [BBC, 8/15/2002] Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in the suit, says the case is being aided by intelligence services from France and four other foreign governments, but no help has come from the Justice Department. [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 8/16/2002] The plaintiffs acknowledge the chance of ever winning any money is slim, but hope the lawsuit will help bring to light the role of Saudi Arabia in the 9/11 attacks. [BBC, 8/15/2002] A number of rich Saudis respond by threatening to withdraw hundreds of billions of dollars in US investments if the lawsuit goes forward (see August 20, 2002). More defendants will be added to the suit later in the year (see November 22, 2002). [Daily Telegraph, 8/20/2002]
Entity Tags: Saudi Binladin Group, Sudan, Taliban, SAAR Foundation, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Ron Motley, International Islamic Relief Organization, Khalid bin Mahfouz, Al-Qaeda, National Commercial Bank, Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., Turki al-Faisal, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Benevolence International Foundation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The US Treasury Department and UN designate Adel Batterjee a global terrorist. Batterjee is connected to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The Treasury Department says that Batterjee “has ranked as one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers” by helping to fund al-Qaeda. It is not explained why the US waited until this time to list him, but counterterrorism expert Rita Katz suggests that the Saudi government may have changed their stance due to increased al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia. “I think they needed Saudi support, and now it seems to be in place.” However, there is no report of Batterjee being arrested or having his funds frozen in Saudi Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; Chicago Tribune, 12/22/2004]
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