Somali shop owners pick up the pieces

Associated Press

SEATTLE — Three weeks after federal agents raided their stores and hauled everything away, two Somali shop owners have been allowed to retrieve their goods and start piecing their businesses back together.

Barakat Wire Transfer, a third Somali-owned business and the target of the Nov. 7 raid, remains closed, with no word on when or if it will reopen.

"I wonder if customers are going to come back," Amana gift shop owner Abdinasir Farah told a Seattle newspaper as friends and family lugged videos, music cassettes, clothing and other gifts back into his store. "Hopefully, everything will be OK."

The day of the raid, Farah said he told U.S. Customs officials his business had no connection to the wire-transfer business. Barakat Wire Transfer was one of 62 businesses and individuals in nine countries and five states whose assets were frozen because the Bush administration suspected ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorist network.

Abdinasir Ali Nur, who owns the Maka Mini-Mart and rented space to the wire transfer business, also said he told authorities his business was separate.

It made no difference. Federal agents loaded food, coffee makers, meat freezers, even shelving into two shipping containers and hauled it away.

Perishables were destroyed because the Auburn warehouse where the U.S. Treasury Department stored the merchandise could not refrigerate the goods, Treasury Department spokesman Robert Nichols said.

Frozen goat and lamb, which accounted for as much as 70 percent of the grocery’s business, were dumped. Both shop owners said they had stocked extra merchandise for Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began two weeks ago.

"You get some good profit during Ramadan," Farah said. "I was expecting to make a lot."

Farah and Nur submitted letters to the Treasury Department saying they had no connections to any terrorist activities. They also wrote Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, who appealed the seizures last week. The men started retrieving their merchandise Wednesday.

The American Civil Liberties Union has been advising them of their rights, and is helping them file a claim against the Treasury Department to cover their lost goods, wages and money removed from cash registers, ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate Barakat Wire Transfer.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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