U.S. plans to block assets of more people and groups suspected of terrorist links

Thursday, October 4th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The U.S. government plans within the next week to freeze the assets of several more individuals and groups suspected of conducting or financing terrorist activities.

President Bush already has blocked the assets of 27 such people and organizations. The list will be expanded within a week, a Treasury official said Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Dozens of additional names are under consideration, a government source said.

Thursday was the deadline for 5,000 banks to provide federal investigators with any information they had on the 27 people and groups named in Bush's Sept. 24 order.

Some names listed are similar to those of unconnected individuals and groups, so investigators are working with banks to check additional information such as date of birth, last known address and country of origin to make sure the correct accounts are blocked.

Since 1999, the United States and other countries have frozen $354 million in assets belonging to the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida terrorist network or their associates, said Tasia Scolinos, spokeswoman for the Office of Foreign Assets Control.

Of that, $254 million in Taliban assets were frozen by the United States in 1999, Scolinos said.

The United States and other countries later blocked $100 million belonging to the Taliban, bin Laden, al-Qaida or their associates, she said, declining to provide details on those assets.

Bin Laden and al-Qaida are the top suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Bush said earlier this week that $6 million in assets related to bin Laden and al-Qaida has been frozen in the United States and abroad since he issued the September order.

Investigators have declined to say exactly how much of that, if any, was in the United States. They expect very little money connected to bin Laden or al-Qaida will be found in the United States, however, and are using Bush's order mostly as a tool to convince foreign banks to help, the Treasury official said.

Tracking terrorist assets will be the top item on the agenda at a meeting of G-7 finance ministers Saturday in Washington, Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said. The group includes the world's seven wealthiest industrialized nations: Canada, the United States, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Britain.