SEATTLE — Federal agents raided a Muslim grocery store containing a wire-transfer operation in the city’s south end early Wednesday as part of an international effort to seal off Osama bin Laden’s financial resources.
The address was listed by the Treasury Department as the office of Barakat Wire Transfer, whose assets were being frozen in a terrorist money probe. It operates inside Maka Market and Halal Meats, which specializes in halal meat preparation, the Islamic equivalent of the Jewish kosher.
Mohamud Osman, 22, was detained by agents who arrived as he attempted to open the business, and was released several hours later. Speaking with reporters through a translator, he said he had trouble answering questions because no translator was provided and he didn’t understand them.
The state Department of Licensing says Osman is listed as a partner in the business with Hassan Mus Farah.
But Osman said he is just an employee and that he is listed as a partner to simplify his cash deliveries for Barakat to Bank of America. The bank relays the money to Barakat offices in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for distribution in Somalia, he said.
Agents loaded one 20-foot shipping container with boxes of material from the wire-transfer operation, the market and a gift shop in the same building, and called in a second truck with a 40-foot container.
The market owner, Abdinasir Nur, said he has rented space to Barakat for seven years. He said he spoke with federal agents at midmorning.
"What I told them is, this is a separate business — why are you taking my stuff? And they told me, ‘We’re already halfway through,’ " and planned to finish the job.
About a dozen sign-waving protesters gathered outside the run-down two-story building around noon.
"Hey hey, ho ho, immigrant-bashing’s got to go!" chanted members of Radical Women and the Freedom Socialist Party, joined by a few area residents.
Many neighborhood residents are Somali refugees who say they count on Barakat — which means "blessing" — to provide same-day fund transfers to friends and family in Africa. The company has branches in virtually every U.S. city with a significant Somali population, said Rage Abukar, 30, a Somali student who lives next door.
Barakat Wire Transfer in Seattle is one of 62 businesses and individuals in nine countries whose assets are being frozen by the Bush administration due to suspected ties to Osama bin Laden’s financial network.
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