WASHINGTON - Feds arrested two men and indicted a third yesterday for
allegedly funneling millions in charity money to the Palestinian terror group
Attorney General John Ashcroft painted a picture of a network with at least
20 Hamas loyalists in the U.S. who have helped raise and launder money for the
Palestinian terrorist organization, dating back to at least 1988.
Muhammad Hamid Khalil Salah, 51, of Bridgeview, Ill., and Abdelhaleem Hasan
Abdelraziq Ashqar, 46, of Alexandria, Va., were arrested on racketeering and
other charges. They could face life sentences if convicted.
A third suspect, Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook, 53, the No. 2 leader of the
political wing of Hamas, remains at large living in Syria.
The timing of the announcement was questioned by lawyers for the defendants,
who called the arrests "politically motivated," pointing out that Salah and
Ashqar were essentially under house arrest while the investigation has been
going on, and have been in and out of U.S. custody over the past year.
The feds even held Marzook for 22 months but released him in 1997 when Israel
would not accept his extradition.
"I don't know what spurred this on for them to [charge them] this month,"
said Josh Devon, a terrorism expert at the SITE Institute in Washington.
"But it's good to see they're finally doing something with the case."