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Terrorist Financing: Hill Valley Hotelier Questioned by Police

August 14, 2017

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Proprietor of Hill Valley Hotel at Signal Hill Road in Freetown, Mohamed Umar Jalloh, has confirmed to Concord Times that he was last Thursday (10 July) invite and questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on allegation of terrorist financing.

While sources at CID and Transnational Organised Crime Unit (TOCU) confirmed that he was in police custody at CID for the above alleged crime, Jalloh told Concord Times that “I was only invited and questioned that my hotel is hosting guests suspected of engaging in terrorist activities. They told me we are hosting people who organised workshops in relation to terrorism. But I was released on the same day and I am currently at my construction site at Mambo [in the Western Rural District].”

According to information gathered by Concord Times, the United States Government had requested for Jalloh to be arrested and questioned on the alleged crime, but he told this press that “we would not encourage any such activity at the hotel.”

Terrorism financing is a thorny issue that the world is fighting tooth and nail to get rid of. In Sierra Leone, the United States Government supported the setting up of TOCU, a branch of the Sierra Leone Police that deals with organised crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundry among several others.

Jalloh, who Concord Times confirmed was in police custody as at Saturday, is a former member of the United States Army. When pressed further about the issue, he said he allegedly called the United States Embassy in Sierra Leone and alerted them about the said police questioning.

However, we could not independently confirm his claim as at press time.

Sierra Leone enacted an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating of Terrorism Act in 2012, which established a Financial Intelligence Unit and created offences of money laundering and terrorism financing. The offences in the Act could be punishable by either fines or custodial sentences or both.

It could be recalled that one Mohamed Jalloh, a naturalised US citizen from Sierra Leone was in 2015 arrested for having links with ISIS and charged with terrorism. He pleaded guilty in October to attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group after admitting he traveled to Africa and boarded a truck to join the Islamic State group before ultimately bailing out, the Washington Post reported.

“I’m sorry to the court, to the people and to the U.S. military,” Jalloh is quoted to have said in court, with his family present.

According to the Washington Post, the case originated from an FBI sting operation and after his arrest, Jalloh admitted he made his own contact with the group before he had ever been introduced to the FBI informant, contact the government had been unaware of at the time.

He was a former National Guardsman from Virginia and was sentenced to 11 years in prison on a terrorism charge.

The Washington Post reported that Jalloh traveled to Africa with his father in 2015 and met an Islamic State recruiter, adding that in August 2015, he came to Sierra Leone to stay with the group’s facilitator.

“Later that year, Jalloh traveled to Niger, again with the intent of joining the group. That time, he went so far as to get on a truck with other recruits to trek across the Sahara to Libya. But, in court papers, Jalloh described how he got cold feet and sneaked off the truck after 18 hours,” the Post reports.

“Guys in the truck would whip people with a hose to pack you in,” Jalloh said, describing his experience as a recruit. “This was the worst, most scary situation that I had ever been in as an adult.”

The report further that before returning to the U.S., Jalloh made contact online with an ISIS operative named Abu Saad Sudani, who put Jalloh in contact with a person he hoped would help Jalloh carry out an attack in the U.S. But that person turned out to be a government informant.

“In conversations with the informant, Jalloh discussed carrying out a Fort Hood-style attack. He also sent hundreds of dollars to an undercover FBI employee he believed was an ISIS member. He also told the informant he decided not to re-enlist with the Virginia Army National Guard after listening to lectures by deceased al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki online.”

Meanwhile, as our investigations continue, it is unclear whether the interrogation of the Hill Valley hotelier has any link with the conviction of his name sake [but not related]in the United States.

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