News Column

U.S. Freezes Assets of Killer of Diplomat

July 3, 2013

The State Department said Wednesday that it is blocking the financial transactions of one of the men who murdered Buffalo-born diplomat John Granville, classifying the Sudanese man as a terrorist.

As a result, the U.S. assets of Abd Al-Ra'Ouf Abu Zaid Mohamed Hamza are frozen.

Hamza was one of four Sudanese men involved in the murder of Granville and another employee of the U.S. Embassy in Sudan, Adbelrahman Abbas Rahama, in 2008.

The State Department's move may seem at first glance to be an unusual one, given that Hamza is in a Sudanese prison -- unlike two of Granville's other murderers, who remain at large after a jailbreak.

But the State Department said it had a good reason for targeting Hamza's assets and declaring him a terrorist.

"In making this designation, the Department seeks to emphasize to the public and, in particular, to the Granville and Abbas families, our commitment to justice prevailing in this case," the State Department said in a statement.

The terrorist classification means that no one in the United States will be allowed to enter into any financial transactions with Hamza.

That being the case, the State Department's move against Hamza may more than symbolic, said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.

"There may have been opportunities for money to be transferred to him," which Hamza may have been able to then transfer to his two accomplices who remain at large, said Higgins, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who has been fighting for justice in the Granville case for years.

"The State Department will take action if it feels it can limit his ability to affect terrorist activity," Higgins added.

At the same time, though, Higgins said the State Department is probably trying to send a message to the two fugitives who remain at large and anyone who might try to help them.

"That's been an overriding narrative here," Higgins said. "The U.S. government is making clear it is monitoring this case and not letting it go."

Granville and Abbas were leaving a New Year's Eve party in Khartoum, Sudan, on Jan. 1, 2008, when they were attacked. Four men, including Hamza, were convicted of the murders a year later, but they escaped from prison shortly thereafter.

Hamza was quickly recaptured, and another of the fugitives was killed in Somalia in 2011. But the two remaining fugitives -- Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad and Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed -- remain at large and are believed to be with Al Qaeda forces in Somalia, Higgins said.

The State Department classified Hamad and Ibrahim as terrorists in January and offered a bounty of $5 million each for their capture.

email: jzremski@buffnews.com

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