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 Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, 22:34 GMT
Terror arrests at US computer firm
Ghassan Elashi pictured in December 2001
One detainee is a prominent Muslim figure in the US
Authorities in the United States have arrested five employees of a Texas computer company on charges of trading with Syria and Libya in violation of anti-terrorism laws.

A federal grand jury in Dallas indicted the five brothers along with a leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas and his wife, who are both believed to be currently in the Middle East.

Attorney General John Ashcroft
Ashcroft: We will pursue the financiers of terror
Announcing the arrests, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the US was determined to pursue "the financiers of terror".

The five brothers worked at InfoCom in the Dallas suburb of Richardson where one of them, Ghassan Elashi, is a vice-president.

"Elashi and four of his brothers... are charged with selling computers and computer parts to Libya and Syria, both designated state sponsors of terrorism," Mr Ashcroft told a news conference at the US Justice Department.

"We will pursue the financiers of terror as aggressively as we pursue the thugs who do their dirty work."

Prominent figure

The 33-count indictment named Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, whom the US deported in 1997, and his wife Nadia, Reuters reports.

Four of the five brothers were arrested this week by federal anti-terrorism agents, while the fifth was already in custody.

The InfoCom vice-president, 48-year-old Ghassan Elashi, was also director of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, believed to be the largest Muslim charity in the US.

The foundation was shut down in December 2001 after the US Treasury Department accused it of being a Hamas front and seized its assets.

If convicted, Mr Ashcroft said, the five face maximum prison terms of:

  • 10 years for illegal exports to Syria and Libya
  • 10 to 20 years for money laundering
  • 10 years for dealing in the property of a designate terrorist
  • five years for making false documents .

New front

In his statement to the press, Mr Ashcroft listed the many victims of Hamas gunmen and suicide bombers, including two dozen Americans.

The BBC's Jonathan Chapman reports from Washington that the Texas indictment marks an expansion of boundaries in the US-led war against terrorism.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Robert Mueller, said the arrests showed that America's security agencies were co-operating well and undaunted by the task ahead.


Key stories

European probe

Background

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See also:

12 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Dec 01 | profiles
15 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Jul 02 | Americas
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