Treasury Freezes Assets of Ohio-Based Group Tied to Hamas

The Treasury Department on Sunday ordered U.S. banks to freeze the assets of an Ohio-based group the government claims funnels money to the militant organization Hamas.

The organization, KindHearts of Toledo, Ohio, was connected with the Hamas-affiliated Holy Land Foundation and the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Global Relief Foundation, the Treasury Department said. The government took similar action against those groups in late 2001.

Under the government action, U.S. citizens are barred from doing business with KindHearts.

KindHearts describes itself on its Web site as a nonprofit charitable organization administering humanitarian aid to the world's poor. In the past, its officials have denied being connected to any terrorist group or individual.

The government claims KindHearts officials have coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions to Hamas-affiliated organizations. The United States considers Hamas, now the most powerful political group in the Palestinian parliament, a terrorist group.

"KindHearts is the progeny of Holy Land Foundation and Global Relief Foundation, which attempted to mask their support for terrorism behind the faEcade of charitable giving," Stuart Levey, treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.

A message left Sunday to KindHearts board member and Cleveland lawyer Jihad Smaili was not immediately returned.

A call to the KindHearts office in Toledo was answered by a man who identified himself as a federal officer. "We're padlocking the office," said the man, who did not give his name.