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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 28, 2003

U.S. Probe Sees Terror Networks Sharing Men, Cash in Global Trail

As always, and seen in this Forward piece, follow the money.
American authorities are investigating a suspicious money trail that leads from the jungles of South America to the suburbs of Dallas and may shed light on the interlocking finances of some key terrorist networks, including Hamas and Al Qaeda.

Federal and Texas state investigators are seeking clues to the origin and destination of millions of dollars wired from a business in the lawless tri-border area where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet, to apparent shell companies in Texas suspected of serving as fronts for either Al Qaeda, Hamas or both. The FBI is known to be involved, and the state prosecutor's office in Dallas has asked Paraguayan officials for assistance, according to documents obtained by the Forward.

The main suspect in the investigation is a Lebanese-Paraguayan national named Mohamed Dahroug, who fled Paraguay five years ago after he was charged with aiding Hamas and is now believed to be dividing his time between Lebanon and the Persian Gulf.

The case provides an inside peek at the all-out American effort to root out terrorist operatives along with their financial and logistical networks. It also casts doubt on the traditional view that terrorist groups maintain rigid lines of separation among themselves. The Dahroug case appears to be part of a complex pattern now emerging in which money and men move seamlessly from one group to the other.

Dahroug's activities first attracted the interest of American authorities last year, after his name and Paraguayan telephone number were found in the date book of Abu Zubaydah, a senior Al Qaeda leader arrested in Pakistan in March 2002.

American officials then launched a major diplomatic and investigative push to locate Dahroug and his suspected associates. That effort could eventually lead to extraditions and terrorism indictments here, sources said.

"The Americans were just like crazy on this," said a South American investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Neither the FBI nor the Texas state prosecutor's office in Dallas would confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

After American officials learned that the telephone number in Abu Zubaydah's date book belonged to a small perfume shop called Francia Perfumes in Ciudad del Este in northern Paraguay, the FBI envoy in the region jumped on a plane to Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital, to ask authorities there to investigate the company and its nominal owner, Ali Nizar Dahroug, the nephew of Mohamed Dahroug.[more]