Skip to comments.FIVE AREA MEN HELD AS AL-QUIDA SUSPECTS - Charges pending against terror cell
Posted on 09/14/2002 12:18:22 PM PDT by smokegenerator
News Staff Reporter
The war on terrorism reached into the Buffalo community Friday evening, when federal agents raided several houses and a store in Lackawanna and accused five men of Yemeni descent of operating an al-Qaida cell.
The normally quiet neighborhood of modest homes and narrow streets was overrun by gun-toting police and FBI agents who ended a year-old probe with the arrests of the five men, all accused of providing material support and resources to the al-Qaida network.
Disbelieving residents poured into the streets as darkness fell, and authorities searched apartments and cars before taking the suspects into custody, then cordoning off their homes.
"We do have five arrests relating to an investigation by the Joint Terrorism Task Force of Western New York. FBI agents made these arrests in Lackawanna this evening," said U.S. Attorney Michael A. Battle.
Federal sources said this is the first case in the United States since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in which suspects are accused of having direct ties to al-Qaida. All five are U.S. citizens. One is a naturalized citizen, and the other four were born in Western New York. All have been living in Lackawanna for several years.
There is no evidence that the five arrested men were plotting anything in the immediate future or in the Buffalo area, authorities said.
Authorities said that the five men were graduates of al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and that one is believed to have trained with John Walker Lindh in an al-Qaida camp.
One of the suspects is linked to Omar al-Farouq, a senior al-Qaida figure captured in Asia this summer, who has provided his interrogators with specific information suggesting that terror cells in the region were planning attacks on U.S. facilities, the sources said.
The suspects are believed to have had contact with those involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
However, the sources would not say whether any of the suspects had a direct role in last year's attacks.
Authorities declined to identify the five men picked up in Friday's raids. However, confidential sources, relatives and neighbors in the close-knit Yemeni community identified two of the suspects as Shafal Mosed, 24, of 183 Ingham Ave., and Yahya A. Goba, 25, of 74 Holland Ave.
The names of the other three suspects could not be immediately confirmed.
On the streets of Lackawanna's First Ward, the Yemeni community reacted with shock and disbelief as police raided and cordoned off buildings on several streets, including Wilkesbarre and Ingham.
On Ingham, two Muslim women in head scarves sat in front of Mosed's home.
Mosed's brother, Albaneh Mosed, 25, was on the street, angry and fearful about Shafal's arrest.
"My brother is the most peaceful person in the world," he said. "He's a telemarketer and goes to ECC South. We knew the FBI was around. They've been watching our house. They've been terrorizing us for the last four months. My mother, Fatima, is sick over this. She's going to have a heart attack. Whatever the FBI has against my brother is a conspiracy. They're just trying to pick somebody out as a scapegoat."
He said his brother was picked up by agents at a deli on Genesee Street and Sherman on Buffalo's East Side about 7 p.m.
Four or five cars pulled up in front of the store where Albaneh works and Shafal was helping him.
"One of them had a gun with a grenade launcher," Albaneh Mosed said. "It was some kind of military weapon, and the guy chuckled. They opened up my brother's trunk as if they were looking for a bomb, and there was nothing in the trunk. My brother is a hard-working, law-abiding citizen."
He added that his brother is married and the struggling father of a 3-year-old son. He also supports their mother, who is widowed.
Neighbors of the five, who live within a short distance of each other and the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque, said they didn't believe the accusations.
"I grew up with these three guys. They are friendly and helpful and funny. They love this country. They vote and play soccer," said a man who declined to identify himself, standing in front of Shafal Mosed's home on Ingham Avenue.
Charles Johnson, who lived on Wilkesbarre Avenue near the suspects, said: "Those guys never bothered anyone. They would be out in front of their apartment house playing with their kids."
Leaders of the local Muslim community expressed concern that the entire Muslim community not be tarnished because of the arrests, and noted the community is cooperating with authorities.
Dr. Khalid Qazi, president of the Western New York American Muslim Council, expressed concerns for the safety of law-abiding Muslims and Yemenites living in the community.
He stressed that the community is as loyal and patriotic as any other community, and pointed out that members of the local Muslim community brought information to the FBI, which triggered the investigation, because they noticed suspicious activity.
"I'm sure the FBI will mention that at its news conference," he said.
Mohamed Albanna, a local civil leader and member of the Yemenite Merchants Association, said he knew many of the people who were targeted in the investigation.
"I know every one of them, and three were born here in the United States," he said. "I know they've been picked up, and their families are cooperating. And we as a community are cooperating."
The suspects are believed to have connection to Arabian Foods, a store on Wilkesbarre that was a target of the raids. Federal agents removed several boxes from the store Friday night.
A senior government official said the Justice Department plans to release more information about the arrests at a news conference today in Washington.
The five are being held in a federal facility and are scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in Buffalo.
U.S. officials said the discovery of the cell was connected to information that also prompted the Bush administration to raise the nation's alert status to "code orange" - the second-highest - on the eve of the Sept. 11 anniversary.
Lackawanna Mayor John Kuryak said his police department has been cooperating with the FBI investigation for the past six to nine months, though not all members of the local police force have been in the loop.
"I'm sure most of our patrolmen didn't know what was going on," he said.
In Lackawanna, an old steel city of nearly 20,000, Yemeni residents are a large minority that has long lived peacefully with other residents in the area. The Lackawanna Islamic Mosque is a center of the community.
In fact, Yemeni residents in the city include high-profile business people and political, social and civic leaders. The majority live in the 1st and 3rd wards of the city.
Andy Bailey, Dave Condren, Dan Herbeck, Lou Michel, Emma D. Sapong, Sandra Tan and Douglas Turner of The News staff contributed to this report.
Copyright © 1999 - 2002 The Buffalo NewsTM
Brother of suspects talking with reporters.
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That alone calls for the death penalty.
and are registered as Democrats. (We'll never know if they voted for Hillary in 2000, though.)
The husband and wife authors of "Aid and Comfort" a relatively new book about Hanoi Jane were on C-SPAN2 yesterday and the husband (a retired law professor) gave a very good description. They claim that Hanoi Jane could have been and should have been indicted for treason and might have been convicted.
Apparently one chapter in the book (at least) is dedicated to your question. Try to find the book in your local library (unlikely) or you can buy it ($39.95 I think, on Amazon).