(Rapaport… August 9, 2004) Six top al-Qaida African operatives purchased conflict diamonds in the run-up to the September 11, 2001, disaster, the Associated Press reported from Senegal on August 8. The news service quoted a confidential report prepared by the U.N.-backed team that is investigating war crimes in Sierra Leone, West Africa.
The team is led by American David Crane and corroborates long-standing claims that the al-Qaida laundered millions of dollars in terror funds through African blood diamonds before 9/11.
Al-Qaida operatives, including some already wanted in pre-Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. targets, dealt directly with then-President Charles Taylor, and with leaders and warlords in the western African country of Liberia from 1999 onwards, according to the accounts. The witnesses told of meetings and sightings in the seedy hotels and safe houses of Monrovia, capital of Liberia. It cites a “highly credible source” claiming that former al-Qaida No. 2 leader Egyptian Mohammed Atef (killed in an encounter in 2001 in Afghanistan) as well as Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (arrested by Pakistani police on July 25) had meetings with diamond-dealing rebels in 1999 and 2000 in Monrovia.
Al-Qaida’s alleged aim was to snap up diamonds in order to have easily convertible, untraceable resources after the U.S. began to freeze al-Qaida bank accounts and other conventional assets worldwide in 1999.
Separately, one U.S. intelligence official told the AP that evidence of an al-Qaida-Africa diamond link now was “close to overwhelming.” The official estimated al-Qaida’s proceeds in the diamond dealings at $15 million.