|Washington, AP -- A mosque established and funded by basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon gave more than $80,000 US to charities the government later determined to be fronts for the terror groups al-Qaida and Hamas, according to financial records obtained by The Associated Press.
Olajuwon told the AP he had not known of any links to terrorism when the donations were made prior to the government's crackdown on the groups, and would not have given the money if he had known.
''There is no way you can go back in time,'' Olajuwon said in a telephone interview from Jordan, where he is studying Arabic. ''After the fact, now they have the list of organizations that are banned by the government.''
A Treasury Department spokeswoman, Molly Millerwise, declined to discuss Olajuwon's contributions, but said: ''In many cases donors are being unwittingly misled by the charities.''
Federal law enforcement officials said they were not investigating Olajuwon, a seven-foot centre born in Nigeria, who played 17 seasons for the Houston Rockets of the NBA. He was traded to Toronto in 2001 where he played one season for the Raptors before retiring.
Olajuwon, who became a U.S. citizen in 1993, was known as The Dream and won the NBA's Most Valuable Player award in 1994 after leading the Rockets to the first of back-to-back championships.
The Olajuwon-founded Islamic Da'Wah Center in Houston gave more than $60,000 in 2000 and $20,000 in 2002 to the Islamic African Relief Agency, the centre's tax records show.
The government shut down the relief agency in October, saying it gave money and other support to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
But the agency and its possible ties to terrorism had been in news stories years earlier, before Olajuwon's contributions:
-The U.S. Agency for International Development cut off two government grants to the Islamic African Relief Agency in 1999, saying funding the group ''would not be in the national interest of the United States.''
-A former fundraiser for the relief agency, Ziyad Khaleel, was named in a federal trial in 2001 as the man who bought a satellite telephone that bin Laden used to plan the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
-Numerous news organizations reported shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks that the relief agency was among more than two dozen Islamic charities under scrutiny for possible terrorist ties.
Olajuwon also participated in a 1999 celebrity bowling tournament for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, which the U.S. government shut down in 2001, accusing it of sending money to Hamas. The Islamic Da'Wah Center gave more than $2,000 to the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation in 2000, according to its tax returns.
At the time, Olajuwon was vice-president of the mosque and provided more than three-quarters of its money. Olajuwon heads the separate foundation that now controls the Islamic Da'Wah Center.
All the donations came before the government designated the Holy Land Foundation and the Islamic African Relief Agency as terrorist fronts. Vipul Worah, an accountant for Olajuwon's charities, said U.S. authorities have never asked about the contributions.
Olajuwon, who is married with four daughters, became a Muslim during his professional career and was known for playing in key games while observing dawn-to-dusk fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Olajuwon said the donations came after fundraisers from the Islamic African Relief Agency visited Houston. He said the group told him donations would help the needy in Africa. © ap