25 August 2004

Sierra Leone: Special Court Links Taylor to World Trade Center Bombing

Freetown — A Confidential report from the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone has implicated former Liberian president Charles Taylor of selling conflict diamonds to known al-Qaeda operatives.

The report states that the said diamonds were used to finance the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Special Court Chief Prosecutor David Crane who prepared the document said Al-Qaeda has been operating in West Africa since September 1998 and had maintained a continuous presence in the region through 2002. John Melrose, former US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, says "The United States never perceived itself to have a strategic interest in sub-Saharan Africa on the terrorism front until very recently." He said the development of a functioning criminal state in West Africa is not a secret to anyone who has been to the region.

US officials believe that a Tanzanian national, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani who was arrested July 25 in Pakistan, paid Taylor protection money They allege had dealings with Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, a top al-Qaeda player included on the US Fedral Bureau of Investigations most wanted list, and Ibrahim Bah, a top RUF commander who served as an intermediary between the RUF leadership and Taylor. Bah is said to have arranged with Taylor for Abdullah to buy millions of dollars worth of diamonds mined in Sierra Leone.

US officials further allege that Taylor facilitated the smuggling of blood diamonds with the aid of Samih Ossaily and Aziz Nassour, both of whom are in custody of Belgian authorities awaiting trial for their shady deals in Sierra Leone.

Taylor is among those indicted by the Special Court for bearing "the greatest responsibility" for crimes committed during Sierra Leone's civil conflict

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