Aafia Siddiqui bought diamonds for Qaeda
* UN report says six top Qaeda operatives were in Liberia to launder money through diamonds before September 11 attacks
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Pakistani fugitive Aafia Siddiqui was actively involved on behalf of Al Qaeda in buying diamonds from Liberia in order to have easily convertible and untraceable funds to circumvent US-led moves in 1999 freezing Al Qaeda bank accounts and other assets worldwide.
Ms Siddiqui was the only prominent female figure in Al Qaeda, and is believed by the United States to have been a likely “fixer” for the group in the United States and elsewhere. Media reports have said Ms Siddiqui was in Monrovia to iron out problems between other Al Qaeda operatives.
According to an Associated Press dispatch based on a confidential report by UN-backed prosecutors, a series of witnesses place six top Al Qaeda fugitives in Africa buying diamonds in the run-up to the September 11 attacks. The first-person accounts detailed by the prosecutors add to long-standing claims that Al Qaeda laundered millions of dollars in terror funds through African diamonds before 9/11. Al Qaeda figures, including some already wanted in pre-September 11 attacks on US targets, dealt directly with then-President Charles Taylor and other leaders and warlords in Liberia from 1999 onwards, according to the accounts. The witnesses told of meetings and sightings in the seedy hotels and safe houses of Monrovia.
“It is clear that Al Qaeda has been in West Africa since September 1998 and maintained a continuous presence in the area through 2002,” according to UN-backed war-crimes investigators in West Africa. Separately, one US intelligence official said evidence of an Al Qaeda-Africa diamond link was “close to overwhelming.” According to him, Al Qaeda proceeds in the diamond trade netted in $15 million. The 9/11 attacks cost an estimated half a million dollars.
The Al Qaeda people seen in Liberia before the 9/11 attacks include Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian wanted in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa and arrested on 25 July in Pakistan. Other Al Qaeda figures placed in Liberia by direct sources cited in the dossier are: Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a native of East Africa’s Comoro Islands, accused in 1998 and 2002 Al Qaeda attacks in East Africa. The United States has placed a $25 million bounty on Mohammed; Egyptian Mohammed Atef, a purported Osama Bin Laden military chief, killed in Afghanistan in 2001; Kenyan Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, wanted in the 1998 attacks in East Africa; Egyptian Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, wanted in the 1998 attacks; and Aafia Siddiqui from Pakistan.