The Bush administration froze
the assets of an American Islamic foundation
and two overseas groups accused of financing
the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
The administration also shut four U.S. offices
of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and
Development, an organization based in Richardson,
Texas, that raised $13 million last year.
The foundation, which calls itself the largest
Muslim charity in the United States, denied
that it was a front for Hamas; however, federal
officials said that after investigating the
organization for years they had determined
it was intimately connected with Hamas.
The FBI said that Holy Land's
founder and chief executive, Shukri Abu Baker,
"has been repeatedly identified as a
member [of] Hamas." The bureau said an
informant quoted him as saying the foundation's
mission is to financially support the families
of suicide bombers. The FBI said the group
was also privately called Hamas's "primary
fundraising entity in the United States."
The FBI also said the foundation
"assistas Hamas by providing a constant
flow of suicide volunteers and buttresses
a terrorist infrastructure heavily reliant
on moral support of the Palestinian populace."
The group provides funds through its offices
in the territories, through other Muslim charities
controlled by Hamas, and through other charities
not directly run by Hams, but supporting it.
The adminitration's order immediately froze
$1.9 million in foundation funds in at least
The U.S. government also
seized assets of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Bank
and Beit el-Mal Holdings, an investment group,
both based in the West
Bank. Attorney General John Ashcroft said
the United States "will not be used as
a staging ground for the financing of those
groups that violently oppose peace as a solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today
blocked pending investigation accounts of
KindHearts, an NGO operating out of Toledo,
Ohio, to ensure the preservation of its assets
pending further investigation.
"KindHearts is the progeny of Holy Land
Foundation and Global Relief Foundation,
which attempted to mask their support for
terrorism behind the façade of charitable
giving," said Stuart Levey, Treasury Under
Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. "By
utilizing this specialized designation tool,
we're able to prevent asset flight in support
of terrorist activities while we further
investigate the activities of KindHearts."
This action was taken pursuant to E.O. 13224,
which is aimed at denying financial and material
support to terrorists and their facilitators.
Following the December
2001 asset freeze and law enforcement actions
against the Hamas-affiliated Holy Land Foundation
for Relief and Development (HLF) and the
al Qaida-affiliated Global Relief Foundation
(GRF), former GRF official Khaled Smaili established
KindHearts from his residence in January 2002.
Smaili founded KindHearts with the intent
to succeed fundraising efforts of both HLF
and GRF, aiming for the new NGO to fill a
void caused by the closures. KindHearts leaders
and fundraisers once held leadership or other
positions with HLF and GRF.
KindHearts officials and fundraisers have
coordinated with Hamas leaders and made contributions
to Hamas-affiliated organizations. Specially
Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) Usama
Hamdan, a leader of Hamas in Lebanon, reportedly
phoned a top fundraiser for KindHearts during
a September 2003 KindHearts fundraiser. During
the call, Hamas leader Hamdan reportedly
communicated to the fundraiser his gratitude
for KindHearts' support. The KindHearts fundraiser
reportedly also provided advice to Hamdan,
telling him not to trust the United Nations
Relief and Works Agency.
Information developed from abroad corroborates
connections between KindHearts and Hamas
in Lebanon. As of late December 2003, KindHearts
was supporting Hamas and other Salafi groups
in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
Haytham Fawri was identified as a KindHearts
official who reportedly collected funds and
sent them to Hamas and other Salafi groups.
Haytham Fawri is believed to be a reference
to Haytham Maghawri, who has served as KindHearts'
manager in Lebanon, and is one of a number
of HLF officials indicted by a federal grand
jury in Dallas, Texas on charges of providing
material support to Hamas. From 1998 -2000,
during his tenure as Social Services Director
for the HLF, Maghawri approved fifty wire
transfers by the HLF in the amount of $407,512
USD, to nine zakat committees identified
as being owned, controlled, or directed by
According to the information source from
abroad, KindHearts began working secretly
and independently in the camps in Lebanon
after the closure of the offices of the Sanabil
Association for Relief and Development (Sanabil),
a Hamas-affiliated entity in Lebanon that
was named an SDGT in August 2003. KindHearts
reportedly attempted to maintain a distance
from Hamas to avoid drawing attention to
its support for the terrorist organization.
In early 2003, KindHearts president Smaili
complained that scrutiny by U.S. law enforcement
and intelligence officials was making it
almost impossible for KindHearts to assist
Between July and December 2002, KindHearts
sent more than $100,000 USD to the Lebanon-based
SDGT Sanabil, according to information available
to the U.S. Financial investigation revealed
that between February 2003 and July 2003,
KindHearts transferred over $150,000 USD
to Sanabil. KindHearts deposited the funds
into the same account used by HLF when it
was providing funds to the Hamas-affiliated
Sanabil, according to FBI analysis.
In addition to providing support to Hamas
in Lebanon, KindHearts reportedly provides
support to Hamas in the West
Bank. An individual
identified as integral to assisting KindHearts
deliver aid to Palestinians in the West Bank,
also reportedly was responsible for dividing
money raised by KindHearts in the U.S to
ensure that some funds went to Hamas. KindHearts
founder and president Smaili told a Texas-based
associate that his organization was raising
funds to support the Palestinian Intifada.
Mohammed El-Mezain, who coordinated KindHearts'
fundraising, is a former HLF official indicted
by a federal grand jury in Dallas, Texas
on charges of providing material support
to Hamas. Information indicates that SDGT
Khalid Mishaal, Hamas' Secretary General
based in Damascus, Syria, identified El-Mezain
as the Hamas leader for the U.S. At the time,
Mishaal advised that all financial contributions
to Hamas from individuals in the U.S. should
be channeled through El-Mezain.
Following the closure of HLF, U.S.-based
Hamas leader El-Mezain transferred his fundraising
skills to Kindhearts. El-Mezain assisted
other KindHearts senior leaders in directing
the coordination of KindHearts' fundraising
strategy. During a 2003 Islamic conference,
KindHearts leaders, including Smaili, met
with El-Mezain to discuss KindHearts fundraisers.
The leaders concluded that there would be
only two fundraising dinners for KindHearts
in September 2003 and thereafter, all fundraising
efforts would target Friday prayers at mosques
and Islamic centers throughout the U.S.
At a September 2003 KindHearts fundraising
event, a KindHearts fundraiser spoke and
encouraged the crowd to appreciate the efforts
of the terrorist group Hizballah in supporting
Hamas. The fundraiser then encouraged the
crowd to give money and manpower as support
against Israel. El-Mezain also spoke at this
KindHearts fundraiser, encouraging people
to donate to KindHearts.
In October 2003, El-Mezain spoke at an event
held in Baton Rouge Louisiana where $500,000
was pledged. Though El-Mezain's speech reportedly
focused almost entirely on raising funds
for a new mosque in Baton Rouge, only a small
amount was to be retained locally and the
vast majority was to be sent to Hamas overseas.