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CAIR Official Arrested on Terrorism Suspicions By: Nicholas K. Geranios
SeattlePI.com | Monday, March 17, 2003


A second man with ties to the University of Idaho has been arrested by federal agents in a widening investigation of a suspected terrorist-related web in the Moscow, Idaho and Pullman area, an FBI source confirmed Friday.

Former Idaho student Bassem K. Khafagi was arrested in January in a hotel near New York City's LaGuardia Airport and was returned to Michigan to face bank fraud charges, the FBI source told The Associated Press.

Khafagi and current University of Idaho student Sami Omar Al-Hussayen both are affiliated with the Islamic Assembly of North America, the FBI agent said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Al-Hussayen was arrested in late February, about a month after Khafagi, in the same investigation and is in custody in Boise, Idaho.

Federal investigators allege the nonprofit IANA, which says it was formed to promote Islam, funneled money to activities supporting terrorism.

"There is a very strong University of Idaho tie to that organization (IANA)," the FBI agent said.

The arrest of Khafagi was first reported in The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Friday's editions.

Investigators also have identified a third former University of Idaho student, who now lives in Detroit, as an associate of IANA. He has not been charged and the FBI agent refused to disclose his name.

The newspaper also reported that a former Washington State University student, Ismail Diab, who lived in the area as recently as last August, is being held as a material witness in the investigation. Washington State University officials could not confirm that Diab was a student at the Pullman school, which is eight miles from the University of Idaho campus.

IANA is affiliated with Help the Needy, another nonprofit organization based in New York, also under investigation by the FBI. Four Arab men are accused of raising $2.7 million for unnamed individuals in Iraq through Help the Needy.

Khafagi and Al-Hussayen are being held for investigation of violating U.S. immigration laws while awaiting separate trials on federal fraud charges.

Al-Hussayen, a Saudi national, is being held in Boise on charges of visa fraud and lying to federal agents.

His attorneys and friends in Moscow dispute the government's contention that Al-Hussayen has led a life on the fringes of terrorism.

But federal investigators contend Al-Hussayen and IANA provided Web sites for two radical Saudi sheiks, Salman Al-Awdah and Safar al-Hawali, who have direct contact with Osama bin Laden. IANA operated more than a dozen Internet sites, many of them managed by Al-Hussayen.

Khafagi, an Egyptian national, enrolled at the University of Idaho in 1986 and earned a master's degree in civil engineering in August 1988, school officials say. His specialty was structural engineering.

After getting his degree, Khafagi remained enrolled at the University of Idaho, working as a teaching assistant in engineering and taking postgraduate classes.

He moved to East Lansing, Mich., and enrolled at Michigan State University in the fall of 1990, MSU records show. He received his doctorate in civil engineering, specializing in structural engineering, in 1993.

At the time of his arrest, Khafagi was community affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington, D.C.

Khafagi was a founding member of the Islamic Assembly of North America, which was incorporated in 1993, public records show.




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