NOOSE TIGHTENS ON TERRORISTS

Tehran frequently complains that Western states accuse it of terrorism, but at the same time they allegedly shelter the Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK) and even encourage its activities, which include mortar attacks and bombings in Iranian cities and assassinations of Iranian officials. Recent moves by the U.S., U.K., and Germany against the MKO may be a signal to Tehran of sensitivity to its complaints. In the U.S. case, the actual arrest of MKO fund-raisers may be a call for reciprocity in the investigation of the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia.

Seven people were arrested at Los Angeles’ international airport on 27 February on charges of raising over $1 million for the MKO. In a tactic common to MKO operatives, they posed as charity workers and solicited funds for orphans while displaying photos of alleged Iranian atrocities. Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent James DeSarno explained at a 28 February press conference that "[t]his cell of the MEK raised funds on behalf of a charity front known as the Committee for Human Rights or the CHR in Iran. The CHR purported to use the money for humanitarian aid. This investigation has revealed that the money was really used to support terrorist actions"

DeSarno explained that the funds were transferred to bank accounts in Turkey. From there, in at least one case, the money was transferred to a used auto parts store in Dubai. Eventually, DeSarno said, "It is believed that the money was used to buy arms such as mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs."

The operation was initiated by the German Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), which informed the FBI that MKO members in Los Angeles were involved in money laundering.

In the U.K., meanwhile, the MKO was identified in a list of 21 terrorist groups under a new anti-terrorism law that aims to curtail their funding and support in Great Britain. The list, lumps the MKO with Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda, Lebanese Hizballah, HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Abu Nidal, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, as well as Algerian, Basque, Egyptian, Kashmiri, Sikh, and Sri Lankan groups.

he MKO, which operates under a variety of cover names (National Liberation Army of Iran, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, Organization of the People’s Holy Warriors of Iran, National Council of Resistance, Muslim Iranian Student’s Society), is designated as a terrorist organization in the State Department’s annual "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report. In May 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to change the MKO’s terrorist designation. MKO operatives disrupted an April 2000 conference in Berlin, and two of them attempted to disrupt the November 2000 conference of the Middle East Studies Association in Orlando. Many Iranians view the MKO, under all its guises, with revulsion because it fought on the side of Iraq during the 1980-1988 war. During the 1970s, the group assassinated American officials and it conducted terrorist activities against the shah’s regime.

Bill Samii 

Service

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