US freezes assets of groups linked to Hamas

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The Independent US

The Bush administration froze the assets on Tuesday of financial groups accused of financing the militant Palestinian organization Hamas.

Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush would announce the action Tuesday against a leading Islamic foundation in the United States and two other financial groups.

The freeze would apply to the assets of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, an organization based in Richardson, Texas, that raised $13 million last year and is one of the largest Muslim charities in the United States. The two other groups were not immediately known.

The administration had planned the crackdown for later in the month, but moved up the action after the weekend suicide bombings in Israel that killed 25 people.

Hamas, already on the State Department terrorist list, has taken responsibility for the attacks.

The administration action, taken just after midnight, is the third such move since October. Last month, the administration seized terrorist assets linked to Islamic money exchanges operating in the United States.

Money is deposited with a broker in one place and recipients get a code or token that lets them collect the same amount somewhere else, usually from a small merchant belonging to the same clan.

Foreign ministers from the seven leading industrialized nations – the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada – agreed in September to produce a coordinated plan to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations.

It was not immediately clear whether any of those countries were moving against groups backing Hamas and similar organizations active in the Israeli­Palestinian dispute.

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