Documents found in Dublin are linked to al-Qaeda


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators have confirmed a link between travel documents found in Dublin and the so-called September 11th "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui, it has emerged. Jim Cusack, Security Editor reports.

The documents were found in a raid on an office used by suspected members of al-Qaeda in the South Circular Road area of Dublin on December 21st, 2000.

It is understood the documents relate to air travel financed by Mustafa Ahmed al Hisawi, an Egyptian financier said to be close to Osama bin Laden. Mr Hisawi disappeared after September 11th and is still being sought.

The FBI investigators, who are building a case against Mr Moussaoui, have conducted a massive trawl to discover his movements prior to the summer of last year when he attempted to train how to fly - but not land or take off - a Boeing 747 airliner at a pilot training school in Minneapolis.

Mr Moussaoui left the US after attracting the attention of security staff and travelled to France where he was arrested earlier this year and deported to the US, where he awaits trial for alleged involvement in the September 11th attacks.

It is understood the FBI investigators discovered that Mr Moussaoui's international travel was financed by Mr Hisawi, who used the services of al-Qaeda members based in Dublin.

A 37-year-old Algerian, who has Irish citizenship, is at the centre of this line of inquiry. It is suspected he made travel arrangements and may also have provided fake identification for Mr Moussaoui and other al-Qaeda members from Dublin.

Confirmation of the renewed FBI interest in the Dublin al-Qaeda link emerged yesterday in the US, when Fox News reported that investigators had linked Mr Moussaoui to false documents emanating from here.

Garda and Army Intelligence were aware that an al-Qaeda cell based in Dublin since the mid-1990s was involved primarily in providing travel and identity documents for others believed to be involved in the commission of terrorist acts.

Fox reported that the documents relate to the activities surrounding a fake charity, Mercy International Relief Agency (MIRA). MIRA was registered as a charity here in 1994. Relatively little money passed through its bank account.

MIRA was linked to bin Laden after the FBI discovered he made telephone calls to its offices in Kenya prior to the August 1998 bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania in which 300 people were killed.

The address given for MIRA in its registering documents was a rented house in Donnybrook held on a one-year lease during the mid-1990s. The owner of the house had no idea that the charity was registered at the address. The MIRA accounts were subsequently operated from an office in the South Circular Road and from the homes of two suspected al-Qaeda members.

One of the two leading al-Qaeda figures here, a man known as Hamid Aich, disappeared last July after the trial of one of his associates in the US for conspiring to bomb Los Angeles Airport (LAX) at the Millennium. The other figure, at the centre of the latest FBI inquiries, is a naturalised citizen and remains resident. There was no indication yesterday that the FBI will seek his deportation.