Expert and newspaper says diamonds fund terrorists

The Interpol expert serving on a U.N. panel investigating diamond smuggling and gun-running in Liberia said on Monday it was plausible that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network used diamonds to get cash, Reuters reported.

“Wherever diamonds are, be it Angola, be it in Sierra Leone or any place, definitely they will try to use that channel. That is common sense,” Harjit Singh Sandhu of India, one of five panel experts, told a news conference.

But Sandhu said the panel, investigating Liberia’s compliance with diamond, arms, air and travel sanctions, imposed by the U.N. Security Council, had not probed the al Qaeda link as it had ended its work before the attacks, Reuters reported.

However, he said terrorist networks tried to use every possible means without funneling cash though banks, Reuters reported. “Everything is linked,” Sandhu said.

The Washington Post said on Friday that al Qaeda-blamed for Sept. 11 attacks against the United States, which killed more than 4,500-had earned millions of dollars from the sale of diamonds mined by Sierra Leone’s rebels and smuggled through Liberia. It singled out Ibrahim Bah, a Senegalese trained in Libya as the dealer.

The panel’s report said Bah, operating from Burkina Faso, has continued to obtain diamonds from senior rebel leaders, which are then smuggled via Liberia or Ivory Coast to Europe in violation of the sanctions, Reuters reported.

The panel of experts presented its exhaustive “name and shame” report on gunrunners, diamond dealers and clandestine air transport companies to the Security Council, Reuters reported. Members will discuss on Wednesday whether to ease any of the sanctions. Liberia is blamed for arming Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front rebels, notorious for their cruelty to civilians, in exchange for looting diamonds from mines they control.