WASHINGTON – Continuing its effort to prevent funds from flowing to Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network, the Bush administration ordered U.S. banks to freeze assets of a Pakistan-based group and nine individuals Friday.
"Today we block the finances of an assortment of terrorists involved in financing and carrying out bombings, kidnappings and murder," said Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. "We will continue to expose and shut down these thugs wherever we find them."
One of the first groups targeted by Bush in the financial war on terrorism was al Rashid Trust, which changed its name to The Aid Organization of the Ulema, according to the United States. The administration said the Pakistan-based group, listed on Friday's blocking order, has been raising funds for the Taliban since 1999.
Also on Friday's list is Ethiopian national Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, who allegedly provided "direct support" for Youssef Nada and Bank Al Taqwa, which the government says gave financial assistance to bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The United States froze assets belonging to Nada and the bank last year.
Egyptian national Abdelkader Mahmoud Es Sayed, also targeted by Friday's blocking order, is believed to be the organizer of Al Qaeda's Milan cell, the U.S. government said. He was convicted in Egypt for the massacre at Luxor that left 58 foreign tourists dead.
Also on Friday's list:
– London-based Khalid Al-Fawaz was indicted in the United States on a charge of plotting to bomb the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The United States is seeking his extradition from the United Kingdom. Bin Laden sent Al-Fawaz to London in 1994, where he acted as a conduit among various Al Qaeda cells, the government said.
– London-based Abu Hamza al-Masri is a member of the Islamic Army of Aden, the terrorist organization that claimed to be behind the USS Cole attack in Yemen.
– Tunisian nationals Aouadi Mohamed Ben Belgacem, Bouchoucha Mokhtar, Charaabi Tarek and Essid Sami Ben Khemais were members of an Al Qaeda cell based in Italy, the government said. The cell is part of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat, an Algerian terrorist organization that continues to carry out operations in North Africa. All four are imprisoned in Italy for trafficking of arms and explosives.
– Libyan national Lased Ben Heni served as a liaison between the Al Qaeda cell in Italy and the cell in Frankfurt that was dissolved in December 2000. Indicted for trafficking arms, explosives and chemical weapons, he was arrested in Germany and extradited to Italy. The United States says he boasted of receiving training in camps frequented by bin Laden.
Treasury officials said it was too early to know whether the 10 new targeted entities have any financial assets in the United States and how much money would be frozen by the action.
Since Sept. 11, more than $104 million in financial assets linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban have been frozen.
The United States has identified 202 individuals and organizations suspected of financing or engaging in terrorism and wants their assets blocked.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.