Police swoop on financiers linked to terror network

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Swiss police arrested two Egyptian financiers yesterday who are allegedly linked to al-Qa'ida. The arrests are said to be part of a crackdown on the finances of any networks and groups that are connected to Osama bin Laden.

In a raid co-ordinated with America and Italy, Swiss officers arrested the men in Campione D'Italia, an Italian enclave just across the border from Lugano, Switzerland. They were being questioned last night.

The men – Youssef Nada and Ali Himat – were described as the managing director and executive director of the Lugano-based Nada Management Organisation, formerly named the Al Taqua Management Co – a business with several international outlets all said to be linked to al-Qa'ida. Both are also said to be senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood – an outlawed fundamentalist group that wants to establish an Islamic state in Egypt.

In Washington, authorities launched raids on a number of businesses believed to have al-Qa'ida links as the Bush administration added another 62 names to the list of groups and individuals whose assets are being frozen. Warrants were issued in Washington, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, as part of the largely symbolic effort to dry up terrorist money supplies inside America.

In Colombus, law enforcement authorities sealed off a money-transfer and cheque-cashing business that was named as part of a second international business with links to al-Qa'ida. Barakaat Enterprise shares a small mall with a pizza shop and beauty salon, but, yesterday morning, a notice taped on the front window of its office, said: "All property contained in this building is blocked pursuant to an executive order of the president on September 23 of this year under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act." The company is said to have operations in several other countries.

In Seattle, more than a dozen US Customs Service agents raided a building containing the offices of Barakat Wire Transfer Co and detained one man. Customs officers also raided a Minneapolis address shared by several businesses and arrested one man, Garad Jama, suspected of aiding Mr bin Laden's network.

The White House said yesterday the "war on the financial front" was just as important as US military action taking place inside Afghanistan.

The White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said: "Beginning at 10am Eastern time, Treasury and Customs agents delivered blocking orders and began securing evidence at several locations Ahmacross the United States. The less money they have, the fewer missions they'll be able to carry out."

The list released by the White House also contains businesses in a number of other countries including Switzerland, Somalia, Lichtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

In an apparent response to the administration's request to freeze the assets of those listed, Liechtenstein officials seized documents of a financial manager who represents the Al Taqua business in the country, police in Vienna launched an investigation into another company said to be linked to Mr bin Laden while, in the Bahamas, officials said a bank on the list had already been closed down.

* An Egyptian living in Britain accused of plotting to murder the former leader of the Northern Alliance protested his innocence at the Old Bailey yesterday.

Yasser Al-Siri, 38, a bookseller, from Maida Vale, west London, is charged with conspiring to murder General Ahmad Shah Massoud who was assassinated on 9 September. Mr Al-Siri sat in dock with an interpreter during the hearing before the Recorder of London, Judge Michael Hyam.

As he went back to the cells he said: "There is no case against me. I will win."