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Liberia's Taylor gave aid to Qaeda, UN probe finds

Page 2 of 3 -- Neither the United States nor Nigeria has commented on Liberia's alleged Al Qaeda links under Taylor. Nevertheless, the UN investigation found that Ghailani, who was sent to Liberia in 1999 to help coordinate Al Qaeda investments in the diamond trade, met with Taylor, along with Al Qaeda leaders Fazhl Abdullah Mohammed, Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. All three are wanted in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and remain on the FBI's list of 22 most wanted terrorists.

Mohammed and Swedan, like Ghailani, are of African descent. Pakistani authorities yesterday told the Associated Press that two ''high-level" Al Qaeda operatives were captured in Punjab. The officials did not provide details on their identities, but said the two were of African origin.

Ghailani and Mohammed arrived in Liberia in March 1999 from the Ivory Coast, according to the UN report. They traveled to Monrovia as guests of Taylor and met with him at his Congo Town residence. Both stayed at the Hotel Boulevard in Monrovia.

Both men remained in Liberia for several years, staying at a military camp near the Sierra Leone border and in government-run hotels in Monrovia, according to the US officials and the UN investigation. The same connections are detailed in a Belgian police report on two men who now face trial in Belgium for smuggling diamonds from Sierra Leone. They allegedly had business ties to the Al Qaeda diamond buyers, including Mohammed.

The UN report outlined a series of alleged links between Al Qaeda leaders and Taylor's regime:

Mohammed served as a driver in 2000 and 2001 for General Sam Bockarie, a senior Taylor commander.

Mohammed Atef, then Al Qaeda's military commander, met in early 2000 with General Issa Sesay, another Taylor commander. Atef is believed to have been killed in the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Siddiqui, the MIT-trained microbiologist who is also on the FBI's most-wanted list, arrived in Monrovia in June 2001 as a guest of one of Taylor's top lieutenants. She was there for a week, investigators said, to meet with Al Qaeda operatives -- including Ghailani -- to get a status report for her superiors in Pakistan on the terrorist group's gem trade.

The FBI posted Siddiqui's photo, along with Ghailani's and Mohammed's, in May as part of a list of individuals who may be planning attacks.

According to the UN investigation, a copy of which was obtained by the Globe, ''the corrupt regime of President Charles Taylor of Liberia facilitated access for Al Qaeda operatives into Sierra Leone and Liberia in exchange for diamonds and weapons."

''Charles Taylor was in the back pocket of Al Qaeda," said a US intelligence official who corroborrated the UN's main findings.   Continued...

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