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Homeland Security

20 February 2003

Eight Alleged Members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Indicted in U.S.

(Ashcroft says indictees supported terrorist activities) (2090)
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and other senior Justice
Department officials have announced the arrest of four alleged members
of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which the U.S. government has
designated a foreign terrorist organization.
According to a press release issued in Washington February 20, four
other alleged members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, currently outside
the country, were indicted along with the arrested men on charges of
operating a racketeering enterprise that engaged in a number of
violent activities.
"The individuals named in this indictment play a substantial role in
international terrorism -- they are 'material supporters' of foreign
terrorist organizations. They finance, extol, and assist acts of
terror," Ashcroft was quoted in the press release as saying.
The attorney general said the United States makes no distinction
between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly
manage, finance or supervise terrorist organizations. "We will bring
justice to the full network of terror," Ashcroft said.
Following is the text of the press release:
(begin text)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Attorney General John Ashcroft, Assistant Attorney
General Michael Chertoff of the Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Paul
I. Perez of the Middle District of Florida, and James F. Jarboe, FBI
Special Agent In Charge of the Tampa Field Office, today announced the
arrest of four members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a
designated foreign terrorist organization, following the return of a
50-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Tampa, Florida.
The indictment, returned Feb. 19 and unsealed today, charges a total
of eight defendants under RICO with operating a racketeering
enterprise from 1984 until the present that engaged in a number of
violent activities. In addition, the indictment charges conspiracy
within the United States to kill and main persons abroad, conspiracy
to provide material support and resources to PIJ, conspiracy to
violate emergency economic sanctions, engaging in various acts of
interstate extortion, perjury, obstruction of justice and immigration
fraud. If convicted, the defendants face up to life in prison.
"The individuals named in this indictment play a substantial role in
international terrorism - they are 'material supporters' of foreign
terrorist organizations. They finance, extol and assist acts of
terror," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "Our message to them is
clear: We make no distinction between those who carry out terrorist
attacks and those who knowingly finance, manage or supervise terrorist
organizations. We will bring justice to the full network of terror."
The defendants arrested today are: 
Sami Amin Al-Arian, 45, born in Kuwait, a resident of Temple Terrace,
Fla., and for many years a professor at the University of South
Florida's College of Engineering . Al-Arian was the alleged leader of
the PIJ in the United States, and Secretary of the "Shura Council," or
worldwide governing group of the PIJ;
Sameeh Hammoudeh, 42, born in the West Bank, a resident of Temple
Terrace, Fla., an instructor and student at USF, and administrator at
the Islamic Academy of Florida. Hammoudeh was an alleged member of the
PIJ in the Tampa area;
Hatim Naji Fariz, 30, born in Puerto Rico, a resident of Spring Hill,
Fla., and a manager for a medical clinic. Fariz also was an alleged
PIJ member; and
Ghassan Zayed Ballut, 41, born in the West Bank, a resident of Tinley
Park, Illinois, and a small business owner. Ballut was an alleged
member of a PIJ cell in Chicago, Illinois.
The other defendants charged in the indictment remain overseas. They
Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, 45, born in the Gaza Strip in the Occupied
Territories, a resident of Damascus, Syria, current worldwide leader
of the PIJ and a member of the PIJ's Shura Council. Shallah, formerly
of Tampa, is former Executor Director of the World Islam and Studies
Enterprise (WISE) and a former instructor at USF. Shallah was named by
the United States as a Specially Designated Terrorist in November
Bashir Musa Mohammed Nafi, 50, born in Egypt, a resident of
Oxfordshire, England, and a professor at Muslim College, formerly
associated with WISE. Nafi was the leader of the PIJ in the United
Kingdom, a member and founder of the PIJ, and a member of the Shura
Mohammed Tasir Hassan Al-Khatib, 46, born in the Gaza Strip in the
Occupied Territories, a resident in the Beirut, Lebanon area, formerly
associated with Islamic Committee for Palestine (ICP) in Tampa.
Al-Khatib was Treasurer of the PIJ and a member of the Shura Council;
Abd Al Aziz Awda, 52, born in Gabaly, Israel, a resident of the Gaza
Strip and Imam of the Al Qassam Mosque in the Gaza Strip. Awda was a
founder and spiritual leader of the PIJ and a member of the Shura
Council. In January 1995, Awda was designated by the United States as
a specially designated terrorist.
The indictment alleges that Al-Arian and the seven other defendants
used locations and facilities within the United States to serve as the
North American base for PIJ, a group that was declared a "specially
designated terrorist" in January 1995 because of the threat it posed
to the Middle East peace process, and designated as a "foreign
terrorist organization" by the State Department in October 1997. The
indictment describes a decade-long conspiracy in which Al-Arian,
Shallah, the late Fathi Shiqaqi and others used a number of U.S.-based
entities to communicate and support PIJ worldwide, to help solve
internal PIJ disputes and financial problems, to help disseminate PIJ
claims of responsibility for specific terrorist attacks in Israel, and
to raise funds within the United States for violent jihad.
A written PIJ "manifesto" uncovered during the course of the
investigation outlines the goals and command structure of the group.
The manifesto stated that the PIJ was led by a Secretary General and a
Shura Council, a central advisory committee. The manifesto rejected
"any peaceful solution to the Palestinian cause, and the affirmation
of the Jihad solution and the martyrdom style as the only choice for
liberation." The manifesto indicated that the only purpose of PIJ was
to destroy Israel and end all Western influence (of the "Great
Satan-America") in the region regardless to the cost of the
inhabitants. The manifesto states that those who died while committing
acts of violence are "martyrs," and an individual who was arrested was
described as a "detainee."
The indictment alleges that the PIJ constitutes a RICO enterprise,
which has engaged in multiple acts of murder and extortion in Israel
and the Occupied Territories (Gaza Strip and West Bank) as part of a
stated terrorist campaign to destroy Israel.
The indictment describes numerous terrorist acts, including suicide
bombings, committed by individuals associated with the PIJ, which
resulted in the murders of over 100 people in Israel and the Occupied
Territories, including two U.S. citizens, Alisa Flatow, age 20, and
Shoshana Ben-Yishai, age 16. Other PIJ-assisted terrorist attacks
-- the April 6, 1994 incident in Afula, Israel, in which PIJ
operatives detonated a car bomb next to a public bus, killing nine
people and injuring approximately 50 others;
-- the Sept. 4, 1994 drive-by shooting near Mirage Junction, Gaza, in
which PIJ killed one person and injured several others;
-- the Nov. 11, 1994 suicide bombing near Netzarim Junction, Gaza,
which killed three people and injured 11.
-- the Jan. 25, 1995 murder of 22 people in a double suicide bombing
at Beit Lid, Israel; and
-- the June 5, 2002, suicide bombing in Haifa, Israel, which killed 20
and injured 50.
The indictment alleges and describes the roles played by the
defendants and the activities in which they personally participated.
The Tampa-based defendants established a PIJ cell using the structure
and facilities of the University of South Florida and two other
entities, WISE and ICP, as a cover to conceal their terrorist
activities. The defendants then managed the affairs of the PIJ
organization by, among others things: administering the financial
affairs of the PIJ, including the acquisition and spending of funds;
acting as communications facilitators to relay messages for PIJ
members located in various countries, relating such things as
announcement of PIJ terrorist attacks; acquiring secure communications
equipment; and making false statements to the INS to assist terrorists
and other PIJ members to enter and remain in the United States.
"Today, the spotlight of the Justice Department exposes members of a
secret, U.S.-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad cell," stated Paul I.
Perez, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. "The
indictment unsealed today specifically sets forth what we have learned
about the alleged activities of these individuals for the past 15
years as major terrorist financial supporters who took advantage of
the freedoms of an open society to help foster anti-Western violence."
"Today's arrests underscore the vigilance of the FBI's Joint Terrorism
Task Force to dismantle and disrupt those who support terrorism," said
James Jarboe, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Field Office.
"These arrests also reflect the continued cooperation among the FBI
and other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as they
work together in the JTTF."
The investigation of this matter continues. The investigation was
conducted by the Tampa Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The case is being
prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Walter E. Furr, III, Deputy
Chief of the Organized Crime Section; Terry A. Zitek, Executive
Assistant U.S. Attorney; and Cherie Krigsman, trial attorney,
Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division, U.S. Department of
This investigation is part of DOJ's continuing efforts to identify,
disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks. As part of this broad-based
campaign to cut off terrorist resources and financing, the
Department's achievements include:
More than 70 terrorist financing or material support investigations;
23 convictions to date;
36 entities designated as terrorist organizations;
$113 million frozen in financial assets of 62 organizations that
support terrorism;
In Illinois, Enaam Arnaout, the executive director of the Benevolence
International Foundation, pleaded guilty and admitted fraudulently
obtaining charitable donations and using them to provide financial
assistance to individuals engaged in violence;
In Dallas, a federal grand jury indicted a senior leader of Hamas for
conspiring to violate U.S. laws that prohibit dealings in terrorist
In Detroit, a federal grand jury indicted 11 people on charges of
conspiracy to commit a pattern of racketeering activity. A portion of
the profits from their activities were intended to support Hizballah,
another designated foreign terrorist organization;
In North Carolina, a federal jury convicted Mahamad Hammoud of
providing material support to Hizballah;
In San Diego, three defendants were indicted for conspiring to trade
drugs for weapons which they intended to sell to al Qaeda forces in
In Houston, four defendants were charged in a drugs-for-weapons plot
to deliver $25 million worth of weapons to the United Self-Defense
Forces of Colombia, or AUC, a Colombian paramilitary group also
identified as a foreign terrorist organization;
In Seattle, Hussain Alshafei and five others were charged with
conspiracy to launder money. The indictment alleges that the defendant
transmitted at least $12 million to Iraq, in clear violation of laws
that prohibit direct or indirect transfers of money to Iraq;
In Buffalo, a federal grand jury indicted three individuals on charges
of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business, with the
objective of sending money to Yemen;
In Boston, a federal jury convicted Mohamed Hussein of two counts of
knowingly running an illegal money transmitting process;
In Kentucky, a complaint and arrest warrant were issued for Mohamed
Ould Sidi Mohamed, charging him with operating an unlicensed money
transmitting business;
In addition, in Kentucky, a jury convicted Mulamin Turay, a native of
Sierra Leone, of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business
and of structuring bank transactions to avoid currency transaction
And in Brooklyn, 15 defendants were indicted on charges of operating
an unlicensed money transmittal business that funneled millions of
dollars to Yemen. Fourteen have pleaded guilty.
"We have an extensive record in breaking up terrorist financing,"
Attorney General Ashcroft stated. "Our record on terrorist financing
is clear: We will hunt down the suppliers of terrorist blood money, we
will shut down these sources, and we will ensure that both terrorists
and their financiers meet the same, swift, certain justice of the
United States of America."
(end text)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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