Officials of the U.S. government have stepped up an ongoing investigation of Islamic charities and relief groups to determine if they are being used – wittingly or not — by Islamic terrorist networks, The New York Times reports.
The charitable groups are suspected of being used to move men, money and weapons across borders, the Times reports.
U.S. officials told the Times that Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile charged with masterminding the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, relied on at least nine of the groups in his recent operations.
The officials told the Times that other charities and relief groups had been linked to a recent plot to bomb historic and tourist sites in Jordan, to the 1993 bombings of the World Trade Center and to terrorist tacks in Egypt against tourist and government officials.
“These charities and relief groups are a crucial part of terrorism’s infrastructure,” one official told the Times. “Money people give for worthy causes should not wind up buying explosives or phony passports. But we still know too little about how Islamic fundamentalist use and abuse these groups.”
Officials of Islamic charities cited by the Times denied their organizations had terrorist links.
The Times says that most of the 6,000 Islamic groups operating worldwide are considered legitimate and provide emergency relief in dangerous and desperate places with the support of friendly states.
And charities often are not aware that terrorists have used them as cover, the Times says.
“Most of these groups do some good works in some places,” one official told the Times. And often, only a few officials or a single chapter involving a small part of a charity’s leadership or resources is being used.”