Skip to comments.FBI affidavit alleges American imam bankrolled jihad plot
Posted on 09/09/2003 11:02:36 AM PDT by Destro
FBI affidavit alleges imam bankrolled plot
One of six men charged with trying to join the Taliban and kill U.S. soldiers said Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, leader of Portland's largest mosque, funded the overseas trip with $12,000 that came from mosque members, according to a newly released FBI affidavit.
Defendant Jeffrey Battle also was secretly recorded telling how Kariye, religious leader of the Islamic Center of Portland, participated in a prayer session at the mosque with the group just before the men left and later directed them to return if they couldn't get into Afghanistan, the affidavit said.
No charges have been filed against Kariye. The 42-year-old Somalian is on probation for federal fraud charges he admitted to earlier this year.
But the allegations in the affidavit make it clear that federal investigators are pursuing evidence that the mosque, known as Masjid As-Saber, and its key leaders organized and supported the conspiracy.
"They're not true," said Mark Cross, Kariye's attorney. "His biggest concern is his relationship with God and how his actions in this world will impact on his standing in the next. In that light, he can live with himself."
Six men were indicted on charges they traveled to China in October 2001 in a failed effort to reach Afghanistan to fight U.S. troops. One remains a fugitive; another, Maher "Mike" Hawash, recently pleaded guilty and is cooperating. One woman was indicted on charges she helped fund the trip.
Prosecutors and investigators have long suspected that a larger group was behind the efforts of the so-called Portland Seven.
Mosque leaders didn't return calls seeking comment, but in the past they have denied any connection to the China group and say they denounce terrorism. Civil rights lawyers for the mosque said in a federal lawsuit filed last month that the mosque and its leaders are targets in this investigation. The lawsuit identified only one leader by name: president Alaa Abunijem.
Affidavit relies on secret recordings The affidavit by Portland FBI agent Mark McBryde made public Friday relies heavily on excerpts from secretly recorded conversations between a government informant and two defendants. Most excerpts come from defendant Battle, who defense attorneys have said in court filings was boasting and exaggerating when talking to the informant.
The affidavit said Battle described the Portland mosque as "the only mosque to teach about jihad" and that Kariye told his followers they should fight with other Muslims in Afghanistan against Americans. Battle said he had "talked to Kariye about jihad," the affidavit said.
Another defendant, Patrice Lumumba Ford, told the informant that Kariye "has spoken out very strongly for jihad," the affidavit said. Ford said in a later conversation that if he tried the trip again he would use forged documents "like the sheik said you needed," using an honorific title for Kariye.
Battle also described how the trip was financed. He told the informant that Habis Al Saoub, a Jordanian who remains a fugitive, "approached Kariye regarding financing for the trip by the jihadists." Battle said Kariye gave Al Saoub $2,000 for each of the men and that "Kariye had acquired this money from members of Masjid As-Saber," according to the affidavit.
Later, after his arrest, Battle told investigators that he got $2,000 from Al Saoub, and he believed the money came from "brothers" at the Portland mosque.
Battle also described attending a prayer session the night before the men left for China. Kariye was there, according to the affidavit. "Following the prayer, the members of the group gave salutations to the people who were in attendance," according to the affidavit. Battle told the informant he believed some of those at the prayer session had put up the money for the China trip.
Battle explained that after Ali K. Steitiye was arrested by federal authorities in October 2001, "Kariye directed the group of jihadists to return to the United States if they were unable to enter Afghanistan," according to the affidavit. Steitiye was later named an unindicted co-conspirator in part for engaging in weapons target practice with the men before they left.
While most conversations with the informant were recorded, this one wasn't. McBryde said that "due to the limitation of the recording equipment," the conversation was recounted later by the informant. He said the informant didn't know the equipment hadn't worked at the time he was debriefed.
Trip called "very well organized" The new disclosures and other court records suggest costs for the China trip and subsequent overseas travel approached $20,000. Some of those suspected of helping have left the country. Others subpoenaed before a federal grand jury have invoked their rights not to talk.
Battle said in one conversation last year that the trip was "very well organized" but was aborted by unexpected trouble getting visas.
An affidavit supporting the arrest of Hawash said two of the defendants -- brothers Muhammad and Ahmed Bilal -- raised about $3,000 at Beaverton's Bilal Mosque by claiming they were going to Saudi Arabia for training. Investigators don't think anyone at that mosque knew the true purpose.
The affidavit said the men paid $1,942 in cash for round-trip tickets from Portland to Hong Kong. The affidavit traced another $6,300 sent to the men overseas.
Part of the Portland-based support came from Elmahjoub Boulhanna, 42, a Moroccan national whose role is described in the arrest affidavit. Boulhanna, who attended the Portland mosque and has since left the United States, was "assisting the families of the mujahedeen fighters who had gone to carry out jihad in Afghanistan," according to the affidavit.
It said Boulhanna also provided money for the defendants' return to Oregon. Battle is quoted in the affidavit telling an informant that "Boulhanna had gained the necessary funds from his Muslim brothers in Portland."
Boulhanna also hosted Battle's wife, October Lewis. She lived in the Boulhanna apartment during the weeks that she repeatedly wired money overseas to Battle to help him reach Afghanistan, according to the arrest affidavit. She also e-mailed Battle that "Mr. C said to tell you they got five more brothers trying to enter for you know what."
After Battle returned to Oregon in February 2002, he and Boulhanna talked about "the need for the Muslim community to carry on a jihad." The federal affidavit said Battle later briefed Boulhanna on Al Saoub's progress, reporting that he had made it into Afghanistan.
Al Saoub reportedly also was in touch with Sofiane Benziadi, 31, who also attended the Portland mosque. Benziadi told the FBI he had heard at the mosque about a group heading to Afghanistan to join the Taliban. He later recanted that statement, saying instead he heard about the group on television news, but the trip didn't become public until nine months after his original statement to investigators.
Benziadi also said Al Saoub called him in late 2001 but kept the conversation general and didn't disclose where he was. Al Saoub worried the FBI was monitoring Benziadi's phone, according to the arrest affidavit.
Benziadi subsequently left the country following his arrest on immigration violations. Boulhanna and his family left for Morocco in April 2002, driven to the Portland airport by Ford, according to a defense filing. On his way out of the United States, Boulhanna was detained at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after baggage scanners detected traces of methamphetamine in his luggage. He was detained for a day but released when the test proved false, airport officials reported.
Boulhanna and Benziadi were listed in a defense court filing as possible co-conspirators. Also listed were Ilir Koni, an Albanian who was among the men found shooting weapons at a Clark County gravel pit in the days after Sept. 11, 2001. Koni has left the country.
Les Zaitz: 503-221-8181; email@example.com
Can't Albanians target practice in peace? They did not have this problem when Clinton was president.
Maher "Mike" Hawash is a prosecutor's dream witness.
He admitted Wednesday that he and his buddies traveled to China in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks with the intention of getting to the Afghan battlefield to kill U.S. soldiers and defend the Taliban.
He also promised to testify against those same friends.
This is absolutely fantastic news. I just knew that there was more to that Imam than a forged social security number. Isn't that what he pled guilty to, SAM?
You're right about Hawash...he's gonna give 'em up! Thank you for posting my absolute favorite pic!
"This has to be a sad day for Vera Katz, her pro Islamokazi city council, and all the rats in Portland who back Islamokazis over GW!"
To that I give a big ole guffaw!
Heheheh...good one. ;o)
Yes, that's all they had on him. I seem to remember when they stopped him at the airport they found some kind of powder residue, like gunpowder, on him. I never did hear what that turned out to be.
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