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Somali financial network hit hard by hyperbole

In the wake of September 11, the US authorities targeted informal financial networks serving people in the Islamic world for particularly severe treatment. One of these was called Barakkat, a cash-transmission network that linked expatriate Somalis living in the US with their impoverished home country. Barakkat was closed down less than a month after the outrage, causing enormous stress to the large expatriate Somali community in the US and their families in Somalia.

The US alleged at the time that Barakkat was a "quartermaster of terror" and closely linked to al-Qaeda. It later claimed it was part of the "mosaic of a terror network". But the US offered no evidence for its allegations, and no-one associated with Barakkat was accused of terrorist financing.

The Barakkat network consisted of a group of grocery shops around the US whose Somali owners accepted deposits in cash or cheques from their customers. These deposits were rarely more than $200. The individual grocers despatched the money by bank, charging a small fee to their customers, to a central bank account in Minnesota. This acted as a depository.

The funds were then despatched to Abu Dhabi where they were converted from dollars to Somali shillings.

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