Administration links Saudi funds to U.S. sleeper cell network

Friday, June 27, 2003

Saudi Arabia's huge investment in financing the spread of Wahabi doctrine in the United States has been tied to the threat posed by Al Qaida sleeper cells in as many as 40 states..

Administration officials said the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community has linked the threat from Al Qaida to Saudi financing of Wahabi institutions that promote an anti-West ideology.

Larry Mefford, assistant director of the FBI counterterrorism division, yesterday told a Senate subcommittee on terrorism that the FBI has launched an effort to uncover and capture Al Qaida sleeper cells in 40 states. He said the sleeper cells could contain those who helped Al Qaida in the September 2001 suicide attacks.

[On Thursday, Saudi Arabia announced that it had captured the suspected mastermind of the May 12 suicide strikes in Riyad in which 35 people, nine of them Americans, were killed. The suspect was identified as a Saudi national, Ali Abdul Rahman Al Ghamdi, who was said to have planned attacks on U.S. interests in the kingdom, Middle East Newsline reported.]

Treasury Department general counsel David Aufhauser, who has negotiated extensively with Riyad, said Saudi Arabia has become the epicenter of financing for Al Qaida and related movements. Aufhauser said Saudi Arabia's efforts to disseminate its Wahabi doctrine comprise a "very important factor to be taken into account when discussing terrorist financing."

"It needs to be dealt with," Aufhauser told the Senate subcommittee on terrorism.

"The problem we are looking at today is the state-sponsored doctrine and funding of an extremist ideology that provides the recruiting grounds, support infrastructure and monetary lifeblood to today's international terrorists," subcommittee chairman Sen. Jon Kyl said.

Administration officials said Saudi Arabia has responded to U.S. pressure to curb organizations that spread Islamic doctrine meant to promote insurgency attacks against the West. They said Riyad has restructured a major Islamic charity and closed many of its offices around the world.

Saudi Arabia has launched several campaigns to persuade Americans that the kingdom does not support Al Qaida and has cooperated in the U.S.-led war against Islamic insurgents. The Saudi embassy in Washington has held several news conferences in which government spokespeople asserted that more than 1,000 Saudi clerics suspected of being Al Qaida loyalists have been dismissed.

The Senate Judiciary Committee panel heard testimony from experts and warnings from senators that the administration has not addressed the threat of Saudi dissemination of Wahabi doctrine in the United States. Committee members said the Saudi effort includes the construction of hundreds of mosques and the indoctrination of U.S. soldiers, particularly Muslim chaplains.

"The Wahabi presence in the United States is a foreboding one that has potentially harmful and far-reaching consequences for our nation's mosques, schools, prisons and even our military," Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. "My fear is, if we don't wake up and take action now, those influenced by Wahabism's extremist ideology will harm us in as of yet unimaginable ways."

The focus of the Saudi efforts to spread Wahabi doctrine was the Al Haramain Foundation which until earlier this year had a network throughout Asia, Africa and Europe. The United States has deemed Al Haramain a financier of Al Qaida and ordered the foundation's assets frozen.

The committee heard testimony, much of which contained in U.S. government reports, that disclosed the huge Saudi investment in disseminating Wahabi doctrine, including control of most national Muslim organizations in the United States. Alex Alexiev, a researcher at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, said Riyad spent $70 billion from 1975 to 2002 in Islamic projects around the world.

Officials told the committee that the administration has launched steps to reduce the spread of Wahabi doctrine in federal institutions. They said the FBI and Bureau of Prisons are working with state officials to stop the dissemination of what they termed extremist Muslim ideology in the prison system. Wahabi doctrine, they said, has been often used in the recruitment of inmates by Al Qaida.

"They [Al Qaida] understand the benefits of having this type of asset, somebody who can travel under the radar screen," Mefford said. "I know the logistical cells are here. The question is whether the most dangerous cells are here."

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover