The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Treasury Department has blocked the assets of a Muslim charity based in the Chicago area, the extensive international operations had included offices in Grozny and Moscow. The January 3 issue of the Federal Register formally announced that the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) had been added to Washington’s official list of organizations that support terrorism-a decision actually made in November. According to a November 19 press release from the Treasury Department, substantial evidence had been found of a close working relationship between BIF’s head Enaam Arnaout and al Qaida, including weapons purchases. The evidence includes a photograph of Arnaout with Osama bin Laden.
According to BIF’s own website–still accessible in January 2003–the organization’s operations in Chechnya “became established in the Vendeno district in March of 1995 through our contact, Shiekh Fatih.” Neither the BIF nor the U.S. authorities claim any link between the organization and Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov.