WASHINGTON – The government will indict three individuals of Middle Eastern descent Wednesday on terrorism charges in Detroit, Fox News has learned.
Sources told Fox News that one of the three is named Kareem Koubriti. A judge has put a gag order on the case, but the Detroit FBI is expected to issue a paper statement on Wednesday.
All three are charged with providing material support and resources in the form of financial support to an Islamic terror group called Salaaf I YYA.
The group is described as a "loose transnational network of Islamists that launched a jihad in the 1990s to drive the U.S. military from the Middle East and erode U.S. support for Israel." This description is also used to describe Al Qaeda -- which actually has about five different names. The question is: Is Salaaf I YYA one of them?
All three individuals are currently in custody. Sources say they were arrested in the third week of September last year on document fraud charges. This is a superceding indictment.
Immediately after Sept. 11, the government rounded up nearly 1,000 Middle Easterners and Arabs on various charges, most of them related to immigration violations. This move by the Bush administration seems to be answering critics that claim these individuals' civil liberties are being trampled for not being detained without being charged with a crime.
These arrests are among the numerous criminal cases the government is building against terror sympathizers on U.S. soil suspected of providing material support to terror groups which, according to documents and U.S. officials, are as diverse as Hamas and Al Qaeda.
Agents believe they have uncovered a broad effort by American citizens, many of them immigrants, to use credit card thefts, illegal cigarette sales, diverted charitable funds and cash smuggled in airline luggage to enrich anti-American and anti-Israeli terror groups with money that originated in the United States, officials said.
"The evidence that is being developed suggests that America has been a piggy bank for certain terror organizations to the tune of tens of millions of dollars," said a senior law enforcement official directly involved in the investigation.
Because many of the cases are still being developed before grand juries, officials would only discuss their evidence on condition of anonymity.
Officials said investigations by the FBI, Customs Service, Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service and other agencies are expected to result in several new indictments over the next several months, including one in Detroit as early as this week.
In that case, officials said they are seeking new charges against some men who have been in custody for months in the terror investigation that are suspected of providing material support to a terrorist organization.
Prosecutors have gathered evidence the men were involved in an attempt to obtain weapons for use in the United States and outside the country; were seeking to wage an "economic jihad" against the United States; and were seeking false IDs to bring accomplices into the United States, according to U.S. officials and court testimony.
Just a few miles from the nation's capital in northern Virginia, federal agents have been investigating whether a network of businesses and charities has been diverting money to Hamas and Al Qaeda, according to court documents reviewed by the Associated Press.
The government has evidence the businesses were engaged in providing "material support to foreign terrorists organizations, conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding functions of the Internal Revenue Service and conspiracy to engage in international transfers of money to promote offenses against foreign nations involving murder or destruction of property by means of explosives," according to a search warrant signed by a federal magistrate earlier this year.
The search warrant gave agents permission to look for records of no fewer than 21 entities -- from an Islamic graduate school to a poultry company -- and any evidence of contacts with the pro-Palestinian group Hamas, Al Qaeda, Usama bin Laden and other terror groups.
Federal agents are examining recent evidence that criminal organizations in the United States have been moving illegal drug proceeds to the Middle East for possible evidence of terrorist financing, officials said.
And they are using powerful supercomputers to analyze global trade in gold, diamonds, tanzanite and honey for evidence of terrorist financing scheme. Three Yemeni honey businesses have been identified so far by U.S. officials as possible fronts for terrorist money, and several other investigations are under way, officials said.
Pakistani-run jewelry kiosks in several states also were raided recently by federal agents.
Nearly all of the Americans, businesses and charities under investigation deny connections to terrorism, and officials say some leads have not panned out. The Treasury Department recently removed the names of several people or companies associated with the al-Barakaat network who were placed on a list of suspected terrorist supporters.
American Muslim activists have questioned whether the efforts amount to harassment of Arab-Americans or racial profiling.
One of the biggest efforts to stop Americans from supporting overseas terrorists is called Operation Green Quest, a joint effort of the Customs Service, several Treasury Department agencies and the FBI, that began last fall after the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to documents and interviews, the operation has seized more than $23 million from suspected terrorist supporters, executed 78 search warrants, and resulted in 42 arrests and 27 indictments.
Officials said there are ongoing investigations into more than 400 leads about potential terrorist finance networks.
But some cases have already become public:
-In Detroit, an Arab-American has been charged with smuggling $12 million in bogus cashiers checks into the United States. Federal agents say the defendant has told them he could provide them information on terrorism and may have evidence the man named on the checks may belong to Al Qaeda, the group headed by bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.
-Two months ago, two Lebanese brothers were convicted in North Carolina of smuggling and reselling millions of dollars in cigarettes in a scheme to help fund Hezbollah.
-In Boston, a fitness trainer of Algerian descent has been accused of providing the names, Social Security cards and credit cards of members from his fitness club to a man convicted of plotting to blow up the Los Angeles airport during the millennium celebrations.
-In June, a dozen shopkeepers in New York were arrested and charged with smuggling money to their native country of Yemen -- a hotbed of support for bin Laden and site of the 2000 Al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole. Unsealed court papers say the men moved more than $100,000 out of the United States in the past year.
-In July, an Islamic cleric from Jersey City, N.J., was arrested on charges he tried to smuggle $659,000 to Egypt by hiding it in Ritz cracker boxes and baby wipes stuffed into his parents' luggage.
Fox News' Ian Christopher McCaleb and Carl Cameron, and the Associated Press, contributed to this report.