August 9, 2004
AP Reports More Al Qaeda/Diamond Links
United Nations' investigators were told by several witnesses that six high-ranking al Qaeda figures were in West Africa purchasing diamonds before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reports the Associated Press. AP obtained a confidential report by U.N.-backed prosecutors. There has long been speculation that al Qaeda operatives used diamonds in money laundering schemes to raise funds for the attacks. The reports also say Liberian president Charles Taylor was directly involved in dealings with al Qaeda operatives. Taylor remains exiled from his country, and is living in Nigeria. A war-crimes tribunal is pushing for Taylor's extradition.
According to AP, U.N. investigators say that through corroboration of witnesses they are able to place several high-ranking al Qaeda operatives in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Investigators say al Qaeda subsequently raised some $15 million dollars through diamond sales, mostly in small-to medium-sized goods. Investigations are uncovering further disturbing information, including records of phone calls linking diamond dealers with al Qaeda middlemen seeking to sell the diamonds. However, direct proof that al Qaeda funded its operations through diamond sales remains elusive. Testimony from witnesses is considered questionable since the witnesses are themselves under investigation.
The document was apparently prepared by U.N.-backed investigators for presentation recently to the 9/11 Commission and other officials in Washington, says AP. Sources interviewed by prosecutors are corroborating in detail accounts of links between al Qaeda and West Africa previously reported by news outlets and independent watchdog groups.
The information uncovered by U.N. investigators contradicts the findings of the 9/11 Commission, which said it had found no persuasive evidence that al Qaeda was using diamonds as a financial vehicle to fund terrorist activities.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.