WASHINGTON – Terrorist attacks in Arab and Muslim countries have led those governments to vastly improve their cooperation with U.S. authorities in the war on terror, particularly in cutting off financing, FBI Director Robert Mueller (search) said Tuesday.
Bombings tied to Al Qaeda or its sympathizers in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Indonesia, Turkey and elsewhere have proven to governments around the world that terrorism is not merely a U.S. problem, Mueller told foreign journalists.
"I think countries around the world recognize that numbers of women and children were killed in those senseless acts and don't want to see that happen anywhere in the world," Mueller said.
Although he declined to name specific countries, Mueller said Arab and Muslim countries have made significant strides in helping the United States identify and shut down sources of financing for Al Qaeda, Hamas (search), Hezbollah (search) and other groups.
"You take the money away from terrorists, they cannot operate," Mueller said during an appearance at the State Department's Foreign Press Center (search). "We are seeing substantial increased assistance in addressing the financing of terrorism throughout the Middle East."
FBI officials have cited several examples of this cooperation in recent months, including:
— Establishment of a joint U.S.-Saudi task force focused on investigating and eliminating sources of terror financing in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere around the world.
— Joint investigations of terror financing networks with local officials in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia.
— Action taken by both the United States and Saudi Arabia to block accounts in Bosnia and Somalia of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation and Wa'el Hamza Julaidan, described by the FBI as an associate of Usama bin Laden who provided financial support to Al Qaeda.
— Four occasions in which the FBI got information from unnamed foreign governments about financing of a pending terror attack and could provide that government with tracking information leading to the arrests of suspected terrorists.
Mueller said that despite the international gains made against Al Qaeda and removal of its base in Afghanistan, the group remains a dangerous network with affiliates or sympathizers in many parts of the world. And it remains dedicated to attacking Americans at home and abroad, he said.
"There are groups in many countries — cells — who follow the preachings of Al Qaeda and (bin Laden)," Mueller said. "Yes, it is more difficult for them to operate, but there are a number of them who do operate.
"They are a fragmented operation around the world about which all of us must be concerned," he added.
Mueller also sought to assure Arabs and Muslims that the war on terror was not aimed at them for ethnic or religious reasons. He said that "99.9 percent" of Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans are patriotic and oppose terrorists, and that the FBI is committed to investigating instances of hate crime or civil rights violations targeting them.
"When we hear about it, we will investigate it," Mueller said. "When we prosecute, we will convict and they will go to jail."