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FBI raids target Somali immigrants

November 30, 2001 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

At 7:30 a.m. on November 7, federal agents raided the Maka Mini Market in the heart of the Somali community in Seattle. This was a part of the government's "Operation Greenquest"--aimed at isolating and freezing the assets of Osama bin Laden and other international terrorist groups.

Although the raid was supposed to target the Barakat Wire Transfer located in the market, it ended up including a meat shop and a card and dress shop. Federal agents took files, furniture, computers and "other items"--including Charmin toilet paper and produce.

Most of the 20,000 Somali residents in Seattle came to the United States to escape war and poverty. The local wire transfer, called "hawalas," was their one way to send money home to relatives. Hawalas send money to runners, who understand the Somali clan system and seek out elders to track down a recipient.

No arrests have been made in Seattle in connection with the September 11 attacks, and no clear evidence has been shown linking the wire transfer company to terrorist groups. Several small businesses remain shut down indefinitely.

Somalis in the Seattle area were stunned by the raid, but have responded with action. Vigils and demonstrations were organized almost immediately, including a march to the local INS offices.

Ann Coleman, Seattle

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