Why is the American office of a Saudi Arabian charitable foundation, linked to Al-Qaeda, still in operation? Ironically, the Saudi government, in May 2003, closed seven of this charity’s offices in other countries – at the request of the federal government. Yet, the US offices were not closed.
The Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation has an office in Ashland, Oregon. According to a lawsuit, the Ashland, Oregon office was linked to al Qaeda, and the Al-Haramain branch in Kenya that was banned following the 1998 Embassy Bombings.
Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism (FUBT) made this allegation in their lawsuit filed on August 15, 2002, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. FUBT is a group representing some families of the 9/11 terrorist attack victims. According to the lawsuit FUBT “seeks to hold those responsible for a more …insidious form of terrorism… which attempts to hide behind the facade of legitimacy. These entities, cloaked in a thin veil of legitimacy, were and are the true enablers of terrorism. The financial resources and support network of these … charities, banks, and individual financiers …allowed the attacks of September 11, 2001 to occur. …Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network cannot plan, train and act on a massive scale without significant financial power, coordination and backing.” Essentially FUBT is accessing the opportunity made available by President Bush, John Ashcroft and Congress and the Patriot Act to file civil actions against terrorists and impede their financial operations.
Al-Haramain’s activities have been known for some time now. In March 2002, Bosnian intelligence reported that Al-Haramain was related to terrorist operations-especially Al-Qaeda and Chechnyan rebels. A raid of the Sarajevo office of Al-Haramain revealed that $1.59 million was not unaccounted for by the group. Bosnian intelligence reported that: “We believe that the clear lack of any concrete humanitarian projects indicates that the existence of this organization was a fictitious cover for probable links with terrorism.” That same month President Bush included Al-Haramain in an executive order freezing the assets of organizations financing terrorism.
The FUBT lawsuit notes that after raids of Al-Haramain offices in Bosnia in June 2, 2002, the Commander of the NATO-led forces in Bosnia, Lieutenant General John Sylvester stated:
“We detected a pattern here . . . for terrorist cells and those who aid and harbor them to operate behind the shield of legitimate humanitarian . . . organizations…. They were preaching good, and sometimes doing good, while plotting evil."
In September 2002, Indonesian Al-Qaeda informant Omar al-Faruq told the CIA that Al-Haramain was used to remit funds to him from bin Laden. Al-Haramain’s website used to have a direct link to qoqaz.net, which is a website that is part of the al Qaeda propaganda network. The website is owned by Azzam Publications, bin Laden’s propaganda vehicle, and operated from Houston Texas.
Al-Haramain is also involved with the Al Baraka banking empire, which was also named in the 9/11 lawsuit. AL-Baraka finances the activities of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. In his Senate testimony in July 2003, terrorism expert Steve Emerson said that although initially Saudi Arabia denied allegations that Al-Haramain were involved in terrorist activities, in June (2003) they stated that al-Haramain was not acting according to its charter and announced that all foreign offices were to be closed. Emerson did remark that the Ashland office was still in operation.
Al-Haramain has another location in the United States. According to the 9/11 complaint, Al-Haramain owns a building in Springfield, Missouri that is home of the Islamic Center of Springfield, which is a mosque.
A call to the Ashland office revealed that there is no staff there. There was only an answering service. The address listed for the Ashland, Oregon Al-Haramain office, is 1257 Siskiykou Boulevard. This is a UPS mail office. The same address is used for the Quran Foundation. The president of this organization is a local Arab-American arborist named Pete Seda. The Quran Foundation is a nonprofit Islamic educational organization. Seda is affiliated with Al-Haramain. He operates an Al-Haramain affiliated program called Arabian Nights, which familiarizes people with Arab culture and the Islamic faith.
Apparently, Seda is considered a benefactor in Ashland. He bought a camel to show kids who attend his Arabian Nights program. A local Ashland, Oregon newspaper, the Daily Tidings, despite all the controversy involving Al-Haramain, described Al-Haramain simply has an Oregon nonprofit organization.One wonders when the federal government and the Ashland newspapers will start investigating the allegations and the operations of Al-Haramain’s local office.