The Saudi Connection
How billions in oil money spawned a global terror network
That remains to be seen. This year Saudi officials announced the closing of all of al Haramain's offices overseas. That came as news to its director, al-Aqil, who in July told Reuters that he was still running branches in Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Bangladesh. Al-Aqil, say Saudi officials, is now under investigation for fraud. In Pakistan, meanwhile, President Pervez Musharraf has twice asked Riyadh to curtail the millions of Saudi dollars that pour into local Islamic political parties, jihad groups, and religious schools. Again, the Saudis have promised change, but Pakistani officials are skeptical. They point to the visit to Mecca last month by the chief of the Jamiat-e-Ullema Islam, one of Pakistan's top Islamic parties. The JUI shares power in Pakistan's Northwest Territory, where it provides sanctuary for Taliban members staging attacks in Afghanistan. Why was JUI's boss in Mecca? For fundraising, JUI sources told U.S. News.
The bigger test for the Saudis will be reform of their society. The hijacking of their charities by the jihad movement occurred because of support by the Saudi fundamentalist religious establishment. That won't be easy to change. Since May 12, officials in Riyadh say, they have purged some 2,000 radical clerics from their mosques and ordered the jihadist rhetoric turned way down. But bringing Wahhabism into the 21st century won't be easy. "We need time," says Abdullah Alotaibi, a political scientist at King Saud University in Riyadh. "You can't change 70 years of history overnight."
Offices of these three leading Saudi charities played key roles in moving millions of dollars to jihadists,
terrorists, or insurgents in some 20 countries.
A - MUSLIM WORLD LEAGUE
Est. annual budget: $45 million
Branch offices: 36
Terror ties: Early '90s, Manila branch sends cash to Islamic guerrillas in Philippines; 2001-02, MWL's Rabita
Trust affiliate designated as terrorist group by U.S. for al Qaeda ties; 2002, federal agents raid U.S. offices
of MWL in terrorist financing case.
B - AL HARAMAIN FOUNDATION
Est. annual budget: $53 million
Branch offices: 50
Terror ties: 1996, CIA links group to Egyptian extremists and Bosnian jihadists; 1999, Moscow claims group
transferred money and arms to Chechen rebels; 2002, staffer nabbed at Manila airport with explosives; 2003, U.S.
says branches in 10 countries provide arms or cash to terrorists.
C - INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC RELIEF ORGANIZATION
Est. annual budget: $46 million
Branch offices: 80
Terror ties: Early '90s, Manila branch funnels cash to Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front; 1996, CIA
reports funding of jihadists in Balkans and Afghanistan, and ties to Algerian and Egyptian extremists, al Qaeda, and
Hamas; 1998, FBI traces suspected Hamas money in Chicago to IIRO; 1999, staffer suspected in bomb plot admits IIRO
funds Afghan terror training camps.
Afghanistan - A,C
Albania - B
Azerbaijan - B
Bosnia-Herzegovina - B,C
Chechnya - B,C
Ethiopia - B
Georgia - B,C
India - C
Indonesia - B
Kenya - A,B
Kosovo - B
Malaysia - B