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Monday, November 17, 2008

Ariz. Muslim leaders face increased FBI scrutiny, 20 Muslims arrested with AK-47's Al-Qaeda website was also hosted in Phoenix AZ.



Monitoring of Muslims grew after charity probe, 2 incidents, by Sean Holstege and Dennis Wagner - Nov. 17, 2008 The Arizona Republic


The FBI has sharpened its scrutiny of some Phoenix-area Muslim leaders because of their links to two controversial incidents and a federal probe into the financing of terrorist groups. No Arizonan has been accused of supporting terrorist groups or actions. However, a Mesa man was charged with lying to the FBI during the financing investigation (and 20 Muslim Youth were arrested in North Phoenix for firing AK-47 assault weapons in a residential area, no big deal).

Al-Qaida Web Site's Phoenix Hosts Follow Actions Taken In Tampa, both sites targeted by private investigator Bill Warner, HOWARD ALTMAN, The Tampa Tribune, For the second time this week, a Web site described as key to al-Qaida communications has been taken down by a hosting company after a call from a reporter. On Wednesday, the site was removed by a company in Phoenix after a call from the Arizona Republic newspaper. On Monday, a Web hosting company in Tampa removed a related site after a call from The Tampa Tribune. The site hosted in Phoenix - www.ek-ls.org - was one of six related al-Qaida sites previously hosted in Tampa, said Paul Henry, an Internet security specialist.

The events that triggered the stepped-up scrutiny (in Phoenix) were the federal probe into a Muslim charity accused of funneling money to the Palestinian group Hamas; a target-shooting episode in Phoenix this year involving a large group of Muslim men and boys firing hundreds of rounds from AK-47s and other guns; and the high-profile removal in 2006 of six Arizona-bound imams from a jetliner after passengers and crew complained of their behavior.

Although some Islamic leaders say they understand the scrutiny, they also view it as another sign that innocent Muslims unjustly fall under suspicion because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Whoever did Sept. 11, go after them and see who they are. I'm not going to pay for them. I'm not going to be guilty," said Marwan Sadeddin, one of the Valley imams who sued US Airways after being removed from a jetliner in Minneapolis.

Like the others, he was questioned by FBI agents after the incident, in addition to being questioned about the arrested Mesa man. The FBI is monitoring the family and community ties among Valley residents involved in the jetliner, shooting and charity probes, said John Lewis, who runs the FBI's Arizona office.


"All of these things come on our scope," said Lewis, the agency's former head of counter-terrorism operations.The FBI routinely watches communities and groups that show patterns of radicalism seen in terrorism cases in the U.S. and Europe; those include radical Islamic theology, anti-Western political rhetoric and fundraising tied to terrorist groups. Lewis declined to discuss any details of the agency's monitoring activities.

The only Arizonan arrested by the FBI is Akram Musa Abdallah of Mesa. He was indicted by a grand jury in August on one count of lying to FBI agents. The government contended in court documents that Abdallah falsely told agents he had not raised money in the 1990s for the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity that President Bush shut down in 2001.

Five founders of the Texas-based charity are on trial in Dallas on charges of steering $12 million to Hamas after the U.S. declared it a terrorist group.
M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix physician and Muslim who founded an organization to counter radical Islamic teachings, said Abdallah's arrest, the target-shooting episode and what he says are the imams' extreme views bear vigilance. "You can't help wonder where this is going," he added.

Target shooting; Shortly before noon on a sunny Sunday in March 08, two Toyota SUVs rolled to a stop along a dirt road in north Phoenix. About 20 young Muslim males climbed out, armed with assault rifles, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and handguns. The location near Happy Valley Road and 51st Avenue is a desert recreation site for off-road motorists, hikers and bikers, dozens of whom were enjoying the spring-like weather.

For more than an hour, the shooters blasted away at a granite rock and empty cans in front of a hill. Officials estimate the fusillade totaled 500 to 1,000 rounds. Some shooters left before police arrived and detained 10 adults and five boys, including an 11-year-old. The young men and boys told officers the weapons belonged to their parents. They said they were not aware it was illegal to use firearms in the residential area.

Six were arrested and charged with felony weapons violations in Maricopa County Superior Court. Among them were the 20- and 21-year-old sons of two imams at Phoenix-area mosques, as well as the 20-year-old son of Abdallah. Phoenix police then notified the Arizona Counter Terrorism Center, a clearinghouse for intelligence, and the case was referred to the FBI, Lewis confirmed. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was called to trace the guns, its Arizona chief said.

Soliman Saadeldin, brother of one of the imams on the jetliner and a board member at the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, was not surprised by the reaction. "Twenty Muslims? Of course the FBI, the CIA and the White House would be worried," Saadeldin said.


Bill Warner
Private Investigator