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Agency has denied ties to terrorists

Sunday, January 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Columbia-based Islamic American Relief Agency has faced government scrutiny in the past.

In 1999, the U.S. Agency for International Development revoked most of a $4.2 million grant to the agency after the State Department asserted that the group had ties to Sudan’s government — which had been identified by the U.S. government as friendly to terrorist organizations.

According to the agency’s Web site, www.iara-usa.org, as well as financial documents, the agency’s purposes include child sponsorship and providing food, medicine, shelter and other services to needy people in Africa, Asia and Bosnia.

The organization has repeatedly told the Missourian that its work is purely charitable. The agency has said that it provides no funds to foreign governments, and a representative told the Missourian in 2000 that the group had not provided relief to Sudan since the United States imposed sanctions on the country in 1987.

The not-for-profit organization’s most recent disclosure forms indicate that its budget in 2002 was about $1.5 million.

The agency, headquartered in the basement of 201 E. Cherry St. near Osco Drug, first filed incorporation papers with the Missouri Secretary of State in 1985 under the name Islamic African Relief Agency.

In 2001, U.S. News & World Report quoted an unnamed American official who alleged that the Islamic American Relief Agency “provided funds to affiliated groups in Africa that employed people with suspected ties to terrorist groups,” including al-Qaida. The news magazine also reported that the U.S. Treasury Department was considering freezing the agency’s assets. An agency representative told the Missourian at the time that there was no basis to the report.

— Compiled by Christie Smythe


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