WASHINGTON – Across two continents, authorities clamped down Wednesday on Usama bin Laden's money bloodlines as the White House surged forward on the financial front of its war on terror.
From Switzerland and Liechtenstein to Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, the Bush administration led raids on businesses and people who authorities suspect are part of two networks that helped fund bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist organization.
"Today, we are taking another step in our fight against evil," President Bush said at a Treasury Department investigation center just outside Washington in northern Virginia.
"By shutting these networks down, we interrupt the murderers' work."
In the U.S., police and federal agents executed warrants in Washington, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle and Columbus, Ohio, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Two individuals and nine organizations had their assets frozen.
Evidence was also seized at two storefronts in northern Virginia.
Overseas, the U.S. asked friendly governments including Switzerland, Somalia, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, to freeze assets of companies or individuals suspected of being involved in schemes to fund terrorism.
In Switzerland, police briefly held two Arab financiers and authorities in Liechtenstein seized documents from a company linked to the terrorist.
Overall, the names of 62 companies and people were added to a list of suspected terrorist associates targeted by Bush in an executive order signed last month. In all, 88 groups or people have had their assets frozen.
The new list of targeted entities covers groups and people affiliated with two suspected bin Laden financial networks — Al Taqua and Al-Barakaat. Both are informal, largely unregulated financial networks — sometimes called hawalas — that authorities say funnel money to Al Qaeda through companies and nonprofit organizations they operate.
Bush accused both networks of managing, investing and distributing terrorists' money; providing internet service and telephones to terrorists; arranging the shipment of weapons; and skimming money from transactions at their shell companies.
Bin Laden has used the networks to funnel hard-to-trace dollars outside the traditional banking system, investigators believe. The companies, nonprofit groups and money exchanges also act as fronts — buying material and supplies shipped off to terrorists.
But the chairman of the al-Barakaat group, speaking in Mogadishu, Somalia, said the U.S. government allegations were all wrong.
"This is all lies," Ahmed Nur Ali Jim'ale told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from Dubai. "We are people who are hard working and have nothing to do with terrorists."
Jim'ale is on the U.S. list.
In America’s heartland, federal authorities in Columbus, Ohio, sealed off Barakaat Enterprise, a money-transfer and check-cashing business on the administration target list.
The scene couldn’t have appeared more innocent: The store shares a small strip mall with a pizza shop and beauty salon, with private homes across the street. A notice taped on the front window of the business said: "All property contained in this building is blocked pursuant to an executive order of the president on Sept. 23 of this year under the authority of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act."
In Seattle, one man was detained after more than a dozen U.S. Customs Service agents raided the offices of Barakat Wire Transfer Co.
In Boston, authorities charged two men with money laundering for terrorist groups. Mohamed M. Hussein and Liban M. Hussein were charged with running an illegal money transmitting business, according to a criminal complaint. Mohamed M. Hussein is in custody, officials said. Liban Hussein was still at large Wednesday afternoon.
The two men ran Barakaat North America Inc. in Dorchester, Mass., a foreign money exchange, without a state license, according to a U.S. Customs Service affidavit. The business moved over $2 million through a U.S. bank from January through September, the government said.
Authorities also moved to freeze the assets of Hussein and Gerad Jama of Minneapolis.
The Al-Barakaat organization has ties in several countries, including the United States. The order cites affiliated organizations in Minnesota, Massachusetts, Ohio and Washington state.
Its North American affiliates include: Aaran Money Wire Service Inc. of Minneapolis; Al-Barakaat Wiring Service of Minneapolis; Barakaat Boston of Dorchester, Mass.; Barakaat Enterprise of Columbus, Ohio; Barakaat North America Inc. of Dorchester, Mass., and Ottawa, Ontario; Barakat Wire Transfer Co. of Seattle; Global Service International of Minneapolis; and Somali International Relief Organization of Minneapolis.
The list also targets assets in several countries, including Switzerland, Somalia, Liechtenstein, the Bahamas, Sweden, Canada, Austria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates. The administration is urging governments to freeze the assets in banks within their borders.
Swiss police spent several hours questioning two Arab financiers allegedly linked to bin Laden's terrorist network and an Egyptian fundamentalist group. Youssef M. Nada and Ali Himat were being held for questioning in Lugano, Switzerland, just across the border from their homes in Campione D'Italia, Italian police Lt. Francesco Rapino said.
Liechtenstein officials seized documents of a financial manager who represents Al Taqua in the country, said Lothar Hagen, spokesman for the national court, the highest judiciary in the Alpine principality of 32,000.
In Vienna, Austria, police were investigating a company the United States says is linked to bin Laden.
And in the Bahamas, officials said Al Taqua Bank, cited by the U.S., had already been closed down but not because of ties to bin Laden.
The new order clamps down on the assets of Al Taqua co-founders Nada and Himat. It also names Mansour-Fattouh of Zurich, Switzerland, and Hussein Abdullahi Kahie of Somalia.
Youssef M. Nada and Co. and Al Taqua Management Co. in Switzerland were also named.
Al Taqua was set up as an offshore enterprise several years ago by Muslim Brotherhood members and friendly businessmen to provide banking services to Muslims, a senior Brotherhood member said Wednesday. Islam's prohibition on charging interest has been the impetus for an Islamic banking system, parts of which are now being scrutinized by the United States.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.