FBI raids Connecticut mosque leader’s home in national terror probe

WOLCOTT, Conn. (AP) – FBI agents raided the home of a Waterbury Islamic leader as part of an investigation into a Sudanese charity that federal officials recently accused of supporting Osama bin Laden and other terrorists.

Majeed Sharif, president of United Muslim Mosque, would not discuss what investigators took from his Wolcott home on Wednesday. But he told The Associated Press that he did volunteer work for the Islamic African Relief Agency, a charity the Bush administration said Wednesday was financing terrorism.

Sharif, 57 referred all other questions to his attorney, who said Sharif has done nothing wrong.

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“He is an absolutely amazing humanitarian and person,” attorney Rosa C. Rebimbas said Thursday. She would not discuss the search.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Wahhabis, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

The FBI confirmed it executed a search warrant in Wolcott but would not identify the address. Federal agents on Wednesday also searched the Islamic African Relief Agency’s office in Columbia, Mo., where they also searched executive director’s home. Thursday morning, authorities raided storage lockers in Columbia that the agency rented.

Bryan Sierra, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice, said the Connecticut and Missouri searches were part of an ongoing investigation.

“There is no danger or immediate threat to the local community,” Sierra said.

The Treasury Department said the charity, headquartered in Khartoum, Sudan, and five of its officials “provided direct financial support” for bin Laden. It also alleged that the group “engaged in a joint program with an institute controlled by (bin Laden) that was involved in providing assistance to Taliban fighters.”

Sharif, who is active in local charities and in the Connecticut Islamic community, is not named by the Treasury Department. No charges have been filed and documents related to the search are sealed.

The Islamic African Relief Agency’s Web site describes its efforts to provide food for Sudanese refugees and to renovate Baghdad orphanages. The site lists a variety of volunteer opportunities, including those who distribute literature and help raise money.

The government alleged that the overseas branches of the group provided “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to bin Laden in 1999. As early as 2003, the group allegedly supported terrorism in the Palestinian territories and served “as a conduit to Hamas in one Western European country.”

Rebimbas would not say what investigators were looking for at Sharif’s home. In Missouri, where the charity goes by the name Islamic American Relief Agency, investigators carried away computers, cardboard boxes and a file cabinet.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, vandals threw rocks through Sharif’s mosque during prayer.

“We’ve been traveling around the state, talking about Islam, trying to dispel the misconceptions and the prejudice that is out there, and now this happens,” he said at the time.

The Treasury Department’s action means U.S. banks must block any assets found in this country belonging to the Islamic African Relief Agency and the five designated officials. People in the United States are not allowed to provide money to them.

The five officials designated Wednesday are Mohammed Ibrahim Sulaiman, listed by Treasury as secretary general at the group’s headquarters in Khartoum; Jaffar Ahmad Abdullah Makki, south Asia region director; Abdul Aziz Abbakar Muhamad, Pakistan director; Khalid Ahmad Jumah Al-Sudani, Middle East regional director; and Ibrahim Buisir, representative in Ireland.


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Associated Press, USA
Oct. 15, 2004
Matt Apuzzo
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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday October 15, 2004.
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