FBI Defends Decision to Shoot Detroit Mosque Leader
Terrorists? Two-bit thugs? Or innocent?
Those are the questions surrounding the dozen men described as radical fundamentalists charged in a criminal conspiracy that includes firearms and stolen goods offenses.
As seven suspects appeared Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit for detention hearings, prosecutors warned of possible retaliation for the killing of the group's leader, Luqman Ameen Abdullah. FBI agents killed Abdullah, 53, of Detroit during a Wednesday raid and shootout at a Dearborn warehouse.
"We know from his conduct yesterday that violence was intended," U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg said Thursday. Two suspects were at large late Thursday.
But defense attorneys scoffed at a 43-page detailed affidavit that highlights Abdullah's alleged hatred of government and police agencies and call for a jihad.
The suspects are not charged with any form of terrorism.
"I don't see any terrorism charges," said defense attorney Robert F. Kinney, who represents suspect Abdul Saboor, 37, of Detroit. "Terrorism is a very serious charge."
Federal authorities defended the actions they took.
Detroit FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena said Abdullah, imam of the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque in Detroit, was armed and opened fire during a raid at a Dearborn warehouse, which he described as an undercover, FBI-controlled location.
"I'm comfortable with what the agents did. They did what they had to do to protect themselves," Arena said, later adding: "We do not target religious institutions."
On Thursday, Windsor police and Canada Border Services agents arrested Abdullah's son, 30-year-old Mujahid Carswell of Detroit and Windsor, the FBI said. The Canadian Border Patrol is holding him on immigration violations.
Still at large were 30-year-old Yassir Ali Khan of Warren, Mich., and Ontario and 33-year-old Mohammad Philistine, also named in the complaint as Mohammad Alsahli, of Ontario.
"We certainly warned law enforcement to be aware that there could be some retribution," Arena said.
The incident has reopened concerns over the FBI's use of informants in the Muslim world, said Imad Hamad, senior national adviser and regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Hamad said he and other Arab-American leaders have had talks with the FBI about its use of informants, and authorities insist that they use such sources only when they have specific allegations.
"The case -- regardless of the facts, regardless of the allegations, regardless of what went right and what went wrong -- brings back that issue of informants," Hamad said.
Jihad El-Jihad, who said he has belonged to Al-Haqq mosque for more than 20 years, said Thursday that members have strong views on many issues, but because they are Muslim, they are considered terrorists.
The mosque had opened its doors to homeless and hungry people, starting a program many years ago to serve warm meals, El-Jihad said.
He called Abdullah "a great human being," adding: "I admire that man. I can only hope that if I'm in the same situation, I have the courage to go like he did."
Abdullah was killed after FBI agents announced arrests at the Dearborn warehouse, in which an unnamed undercover transaction was taking place, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia Oberg told a federal magistrate Thursday.
Four suspects, including Abdullah, took off running and came to a locked door, she said. Then they sought refuge in a large truck parked inside.
When FBI agents called for surrender, three suspects complied: Abdul Saboor, Abdulla Beard and Muhammad Abdul Salaam, Oberg said.
Abdullah came out firing, authorities said.
Freddy, an FBI dog from Washington, was dead on arrival after being flown to a hospital.
"Those dogs are like family members," Arena said. "Many times those dogs have saved officers' and agents' lives, and I think that may have occurred yesterday."
Agents seized six weapons, a bulletproof vest and ammunition during two search warrant executions on Tireman and Genessee in Detroit.