FBI: Hamas, Hizbullah networks in U.S. have been dismantled

Thursday, February 19, 2004

WASHINGTON FBI director Robert Mueller said his agency has broken up what he termed terrorist cells sponsored by the Palestinian Hamas and the Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah in the United States. He said both the recruitment and fundraising arms of those two groups were identified and disrupted.

"We are still as active as we have been before in identifying those in the United States who would be supporting Al Qaida or other terrorist groups and groups, Hamas, Hizbullah, just to mention two identifying them and interrupting their recruiting, their financing of terrorism when we find them operating within the United States," Mueller said.

Addressing the State Department's Foreign Press Center on Tuesday, the FBI director did not say whether the Hamas and Hizbullah cells were broken up with the help of Israel. Mueller said FBI cooperation with Israel was similar to that of other countries in the Middle East, Middle East Newsline reported.

"We have a relationship with our counterparts in Israel that is similar to our relationship with our counterparts in Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or elsewhere in the Middle East," Mueller said. "We cooperate on issues of terrorism."

Mueller said the United States has made significant inroads in denying financing to Al Qaida and other groups deemed as terrorists. He said the gains stem from increased cooperation by Middle East states, particularly those who have endured Islamic insurgency attacks over the last two years.

"There are certain countries in which there have been terrorist attacks," Mueller said. "And those terrorist attacks have led those countries to increase their cooperation dramatically, not only on exchanging information but most particularly, on addressing the financing of terrorism."

"If you take the money away from terrorists, they cannot operate," Mueller added. "They cannot fund their operations. They are also often families and the like, and if they don't have a job, then they have to be funded by somebody or some organization. And so addressing the financing is tremendously important to cut out the underpinnings of terrorism. And we have seen substantial increased assistance in addressing the finance of terrorism throughout the Middle East."

[On Wednesday, the British embassy in Damascus remained closed to the public amid a security threat. The Foreign Office in London said British authorities have received a "high threat" of what the office termed a terrorist attack to Western and British interests in Syria.]

The United States has also eliminated Al Qaida's sanctuary in Afghanistan as well as the organization's ability to train, communicate, plan and organize, Mueller said. He said the U.S.-led coalition has arrested and detained at least two-thirds of the Al Qaida's leadership.

Mueller said Al Qaida remains a lethal organization with cells throughout the world. He said Al Qaida relies on affiliates or sympathizers rather than agents.

"There are groups in many countries, cells who follow the preachings of Al Qaida and UBL [Usama Bin Laden]," Mueller said. "And, yes, it is far more difficult for them to operate; but nonetheless, there are a number of them that do operate. They are a fragmented operation around the world about which all of us must be concerned."

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