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Sniper suspect John Muhammad fits the profile of a disaffected outcast who becomes increasingly radicalized under the influence of Islamism, say terrorism analysts and investigators, who suspect he is connected with the radical Islamist group, al-Fuqra.
According to Christian M. Weber, contributing editor for Soldiers for the Truth, an organization headed by Col. David Hackworth, Muhammad seems to follow the model of John Walker Lindh, Richard Reid and Jose Padilla – men exposed to Islamism who become disenchanted with the movement’s pace and progress and who take the road to jihad.
“As one traces John Muhammad’s life from his conversion to Islam in 1985, to his joining of the moderately militant Nation of Islam, to his deadly shooting spree in October 2002, his steady radicalization becomes readily apparent,” writes Weber. “Terrorist profiling dictates that his departure from the Nation of Islam in 1999 would have been followed by his affiliation with an organization more actively militant. It also suggests that initial news reports citing U.S. officials who said there was no evidence of any connection between Muhammad and identified terrorist organizations may have been premature.”
Weber points out that Muhammad acquired the 1990 Chevy Caprice that he would modify into his killing platform on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. He had also expressed sympathy with Sept. 11 terrorists.
Weber had previously pointed to Oct. 2 – the day the snipers began their Maryland rampage – as a significant date for terrorist threats.
“Nor does it seem random chance that his spree started on Oct. 2, the anniversary of the conviction of World Trade Center bombing ringleader Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman in 1995,” Weber writes. “It appears likely that after his separation from the Nation of Islam, which occurred on less than good terms, Muhammad gravitated to an organization at odds with the Nation of Islam and aligned with the Wahhabist sect of Islam associated with al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and Sheikh Rahman. In America today, one organization fits that bill – al-Fuqra.”
Al-Fuqra was founded by Kashmiri Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani. He began preaching at a Muslim mosque in Brooklyn seeking recruits for the Afghan Jihad. He primarily targeted black American converts from the inner city and those with criminal backgrounds, a segment of the population that the cleric apparently saw as prime for melding militant Islam with a deep-seated resentment and disillusionment with Western society.
“The resulting organization, al-Fuqra (the impoverished), was formed with a goal of purifying Islam through violence,” explains Weber.
Gilani is the man Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was to meet when he was abducted last Jan. 23 and murdered. He has a long history of involvement with terrorism.
“The upstate New York town of Hancock serves as the American headquarters for al-Fuqra, with at least six major rural communities, jamaats, of 200 to 300 members located in Red House, Va., Tulare County, Calif., Commerce, Ga., York, S.C., Dover, Tenn., and Combermere, Canada,” he writes. “Total membership in al-Fuqra is believed to be between one and three thousand, with smaller jamaats being reported in over 25 locations throughout the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. The communities themselves are primarily walled or fenced-in gatherings of trailers or mobile homes. At least three of the compounds are known to have firing ranges, and the compound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California has a fully functional airfield.
Surveillance reports of the compounds note that the residents remain in a fluid state and are continuously on the move. For the past several years, law enforcement authorities observing the Red House, Va., compound have voiced concern that this pattern may be designed to create a series of safe houses in the rural areas of southern Virginia.
According to Weber, al-Fuqra – which boasts distinct ties to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida – owns two private security companies in Brooklyn that not only provide armed protection for the jamaats, but also compete for government and private security contracts. Between 1980 and 1990, al-Fuqra members have been either convicted or suspected in 13 assassinations and 17 firebombings, he says.
Susan Fenger, former chief criminal investigator for the state of Colorado, has looked into Muslim groups with terrorist ties in the U.S.
“There was a large Fuqra group here in Colorado that was ripping off worker’s comp money and using that to support their terrorist activities,” said Fenger in a recent interview with John Gibson on the Fox News Channel. “Their terrorist activities involved targeting a number of individuals, and including the Hare Krishna temple here in Denver and an imam down in Tucson, Arizona.”
“Their basis, their philosophy, is to purify or cleanse Islam,” said Fenger. “And speaking in the traditional fundamentalist viewpoint of Islam. And to do so through any means of force and violence. That’s their creed.”
Referring to Sheik Jalani, the head of the al-Fuqra, Fenger said the leader exerts “total influence” over his followers, so much so that “many of the adherents to Fuqra even look at him in a more of a religious sense as able to move from place to place without – in a magical way.”
“Without having to get on a plane?” asked Gibson.
And does the group actually engage in terrorist acts?
“There have been throughout the 1980s and ’90s terrorist activities that this group was involved in,” said Fenger. “However, they were carried out in a covert manner. What this group does is targets various individuals and entities and plans to carry out its terrorist acts in a very covert manner.”
During an Oct. 28 CNN broadcast, anchor Arthel Neville asked that network’s security analyst Kelly McCann about the sniper/al-Fuqra connection:
“Authorities are saying that Muhammad may have been, and Malvo may have been, associated with the Muslim group Jamad Al-Fuqra, and the State Department lists this group as a terrorist group operating out of Pakistan and North America. What do you know about this group?”
McCann: “It’s been in operation since about the 1980s. It’s centered in Lahore, Pakistan, and Sheik Gilani is the man who is responsible for starting it. Basically, the name says it all. It’s also known by the name Jihad Council for North America. It’s active in the Caribbean, and in North America, and in Pakistan, and if you see the Caribbean link, Richard Reid obviously, Malvo, and now Muhammad, it’s interesting – there’s just a tremendous amount of coincidence and overlap that needs to be investigated.”
“In any investigation the acceleration point is at the apprehension,” McCann added. “When you apprehend somebody you should accelerate forward in order to run down leads that may run on, especially when you are doing counter-terror, into other areas, and I think that to be fair, no one’s making any statements saying that there is a link. I think everyone is just saying that there are so many coincidences that we would be foolish not to run them into ground.”