| The twin towers of the World Trade Center on fire after the hijacked planes crashed into them.
Washington, Aug. 1 (Agencies): Investigators have traced the funding for the September 11 attacks to al Qaida accounts in Pakistan, a top FBI counter-terrorism official told a US Senate panel.
But the official did little to clarify alleged Saudi Arabian role in the funding.
John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counter-terrorism division, said yesterday that investigators have “traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known al Qaida operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the US.”
Pistole did not specify in his testimony to the Senate government affairs committee how those accounts in Pakistan were funded.
The FBI has estimated the cost of the September 11 attacks between $175,000 and $250,000. That money, which paid for flight training, travel and other expenses, flowed to the hijackers through associates in Germany and the United Arab Emirates.
Those associates reported to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who managed much of the planning for the attacks from Pakistan, US officials said.
Pistole did not discuss reports that some support for the September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudis.
Senators sought details on the Bush administration’s efforts to crack down on Saudi charities accused of terrorism ties.
Richard Newcomb, the director of the treasury department’s office of foreign assets control, said some Saudi organisations provide considerable support for terrorism.
“The extent to which that takes place is not completely clear, but I would characterise it as considerable,” he said.
Newcomb’s office is one that recommends freezing foreign bank accounts tied to terrorists. Under questioning, Newcomb said other federal agencies had at times quashed his office’s recommendations to freeze funding for certain organisations. He would not name those organisations.
Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he worried that Saudi Arabia “was being shielded for foreign policy reasons”.
The hearing came against the backdrop of questions about Saudi connections to terror, particularly to the September 11 attacks.
Some are calling for the declassification of 28 secret pages in the recent September 11 report that officials say describe a web of connections between prominent businessmen, members of the Saudi royal family and the charities they support.
Nothing new: India
India described the FBI claim as “nothing new” and said it underpinned the importance of credibly eradicating terrorist networks.
“Information disclosed by the FBI concerning September 11 funding being linked to accounts in Pakistan is not new,” the external affairs ministry’s spokesman said in New Delhi.
“It being stated in a senate hearing underlines the importance of ensuring that networks linked with terrorism are credibly eradicated,” the spokesperson added.
India has conveyed to its interlocutors from the US and other countries that Pakistan continues to be the focal point of terrorism in the region and they should not overlook this in the war against the scourge, he said.