Swiss Police Briefly Detain Two Egyptians

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Working in concert with the United States, authorities across Europe raided homes and businesses, detained two Arab financiers, and seized thousands of documents as part of a global crackdown on Usama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Swiss police detained Youssef M. Nada and Ali Himmat, two Arab financiers who the U.S. suspects funnel money to bin Laden's Al Qaeda network through the Nada Management Organization. The men, who are also apparently linked to an Egyptian fundamentalist group, were questioned for six hours and released.

The raids were conducted at the men's homes in the Italian enclave of Campione D'Italia, and were taken across the border to Lugano, Switzerland, for questioning.

The detentions Wednesday came as the Bush administration moved to crack down on bin Laden's financial network worldwide.

Washington froze bin Laden's assets in the United States and asked at least nine countries to do the same, adding 62 entities and individuals — including Nada and Himmat — to a list of suspected terrorist associates.

The list targets assets in Switzerland, Somalia, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.

Warrants were also executed in Washington, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity. It was one of the first uses of the Treasury Department's new Green Quest terrorist tracking efforts, the officials said.

Authorities in Liechtenstein and Austria also confirmed Wednesday that they had moved to seize assets. A Dutch official who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators went to the address of a listed company and found new tenants unconnected with the Barakat Telecommunications Company.

In Liechtenstein, authorities searched the office of the financial manager of the Al Taqua Trade, Properties and Industry Company Ltd., and seized documents. Both Nada and Himmat are on the company's board of directors.

Also on the U.S. list was a man with a Rome address, Dahir Ubeidullahi Aweys. A woman who answered the telephone said he had left for Somalia, then hung up.

The lawyer for the two Arab financiers, Pier Felice Barchi, said his clients will be questioned again in coming days. He added that they "have nothing to fear and nothing to hide."

The lawyer said authorities also seized thousands of pages of documents from their homes and their offices in Lugano.

While Swiss and Italian authorities identified the men arrested Wednesday as Egyptian, Himmat was identified on the U.S. Treasury list as holding Swiss and Tunisian citizenship.

U.S. authorities say the Nada Management Organization is part of an unregulated financial network — sometimes called hawala — that is used to funnel money to bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist group through companies and nonprofit organizations.

Nada and Himmat are also senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group that wants to establish an Islamic state in Egypt, a leading Brotherhood member told the AP in Cairo. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the group is outlawed in Egypt.

Egyptian police have recently cracked down on the group. On Tuesday, 21 Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested. Lawyers said interrogations did not touch on the Sept. 11 attacks or funding for militant groups.

Tuesday's sweep was the third mass arrest in recent months in Egypt.

Nada and Himmat have homes in Campione, a gambling center and tax haven known for "post office box" companies incorporated there but with no real presence. The Italian enclave on Lake Lugano is completely surrounded by Swiss territory.

Nada Management had recently changed its name from Al Taqua Management Co. That company was also named on the U.S. Treasury Department list.

Officials at the Bank of Italy and the Italian Treasury Ministry told AP that they had been monitoring Al Taqua's operations for some time.

The Muslim Brotherhood member in Cairo said Al Taqua was set up as an offshore enterprise several years ago by group members and friendly businessmen to provide banking services to Muslims. Islam's prohibition on charging interest has been the impetus for an Islamic banking industry.

The senior Muslim Brotherhood member said Al Taqua was liquidated last year because of losses incurred in the Asian financial crisis and because of what he termed harassment by several unspecified governments.

The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in 1928, is the Arab world's oldest fundamentalist Muslim group. The Egyptian branch inspired similar groups in Jordan and elsewhere. It is officially banned in Egypt, but is believed to be the largest Islamic organization in the country.

The Brotherhood's activities are tolerated in Egypt to an extent. Leaders issue statements from offices in Cairo and its members, running as independents, won 17 seats in parliamentary elections last year. The victories made the Brotherhood the largest opposition bloc in the 454-member legislature.