Entrance to Hancock, N.Y., encampment (Courtesy Northeast Intelligence Network)
The Pakistani terrorist group Jamaat ul Fuqra is using Islamic schools in the United States as training facilities, confirms a joint investigative report by an intelligence think tank and an independent reporter.
A covert visit to an encampment in the Catskill Mountains near Hancock, N.Y., called “Islamberg” found neighboring residents deeply concerned about military-style training taking place there but frustrated by the lack of attention from federal authorities, said the report by the Northeast Intelligence Network, which worked with an Internet blogger, “CP,” to publish an interim report.
The neighbors interviewed, who asked not to be identified, said they feared retaliation if they were to make a report to law enforcement officials.
“We see children – small children run around over there when they should be in school,” one neighbor said. “We hear bursts of gunfire all of the time, and we know that there is military-like training going on there. Those people are armed and dangerous.”
The resident said his household gets “nothing but menacing looks from the people who go in and out of the camp, and sometimes they yell at us to mind our own business when we are just driving by.”
“We don’t even dare to slow down when we drive by,” the resident said. “They own this mountain and they know it, and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can’t even do that. Who wants to buy property next to that?”
Jamaat ul-Fuqra, or “community of the impoverished,” was formed by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani in New York in 1980. Gilani, who refers to himself as “the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr,” has stated his objective is to “purify” Islam through violence.
Gilani also is the founder of a village in South Carolina called “Holy Islamville.”
The encampment in Hancock, N.Y., is run by a front for Jamaat ul-Fuqra called Muslims of the Americas Inc., which operates a school known as the International Quranic Open University Inc.
Entrance to Hancock, N.Y., encampment (Courtesy Northeast Intelligence Network)
The facility is on 70 acres of remote land on the western edge of the Catskill Mountains, about 40 miles southeast of Binghamton, N.Y. A sign at the entrance identifies the place as “Islamberg.” The other side of the sign says “International Quranic Open University” and “Muslims of the Americas Inc.”
Every one of the neighboring residents interviewed expressed disappointment and additional concern that federal law enforcement is not investigating the activities, the report said.
“These people need to be investigated,” a resident said. “They are training for war, either for war here in this country or against our troops. Who in the h— is allowing this stuff to happen right here in our own backyard, and why?”
Headquarters in the USA
Though primarily based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Fuqra has operational headquarters in the U.S.
The group seeks to counter “excessive Western influence on Islam” through any means necessary, publicly embracing the ideology that violence is a significant part of its quest to purify Islam. The enemies of Islam, the group says, are all non-Muslims and any Muslim who does not follow the tenets of fundamentalist Islam as detailed in the Quran.
Jamaat ul-Fuqra openly recruits through various social service organizations in the U.S., including the prison system. Members live in compounds where they agree to abide by the laws of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are considered to be above local, state and federal authority.
According to the report, there appear to be more than two dozen “Jamaats,” or private communities, loosely connected and scattered throughout the U.S. with an estimated 5,000 members.
Guard shack at Hancock, N.Y., encampment (Courtesy Northeast Intelligence Network)
An investigation of the group by the Colorado Attorney General’s office in the early 1980s found several of the communities operate covert paramilitary training compounds, including one in a mountainous area near Buena Vista, Colo.
Muslims of the Americas Inc., a tax-exempt organization formed in 1980 by Gilani, has been directly linked by court documents to Jamaat ul-Fuqra. The organization operates communes of primarily black, American-born Muslims throughout the U.S. The investigation confirmed members commonly use aliases and intentional spelling variations of their names and routinely deny the existence of Jamaat ul-Fuqra.
Members have been known to go to Pakistan for paramilitary training, but the investigation found evidence the U.S. encampments offer such training so members don’t need to risk traveling abroad amid increased scrutiny following the 9-11 attacks.
The report says Jamaat ul-Fuqra members have “purchased isolated rural properties in North America to live as a community, practice their faith, and insulate themselves from Western culture. The group has established rural encampments that U.S. authorities allege are linked to murder, bombings and other felonies throughout North America.”
U.S. authorities have probed the group for charges ranging from links to al-Qaida to laundering and funneling money into Pakistan for terrorist activities. The organization supports various terrorist groups operating in Pakistan and Kashmir, and Gilani himself is linked directly to Hamas and Hezbollah. Throughout the 1980s, JF was responsible for a number of terrorist acts across the United States, including numerous fire-bombings.
Gilani was at one time in Pakistani custody for the abduction of American journalist Daniel Pearl. Intelligence sources have determined Pearl was attempting to meet with Gilani in the days before he disappeared in Karachi. Intelligence sources also suggest a link between Jamaat ul Fuqra and Richard Reid, the infamous “shoe bomber” who attempted to ignite explosives aboard a Paris-to-Miami passenger flight Dec. 22, 2001.
Douglas J. Hagmann, director of the Northeast Intelligence Network and multi-state licensed private investigator, and others conducted their covert field investigation Feb. 8 and 9 at the Hancock encampment connected to the terrorist group.
Primary access to the compound is an unmarked road – labeled on county and state maps as “Moslem Road”
Two structures with capacities of up to 100 each appear to be used for religious training, education and meeting purposes, according to local sources. Investigators found a weapons firing range that is not visible from the road or any other publicly accessible vantage position. It appeared to have been recently used.
Near the eastern perimeter of the property – on a hillside – appears to be a military-style training area, including ropes hung from tree limbs, an obstacle course, wooden fences for scaling and other items and structures one would expect to find in a “boot-camp” setting. The area also appeared to have been used recently.
The report noted the property is near the Cannonsville Reservoir and Watershed Area, one of several water supply sources servicing New York City and adjacent areas.
The investigators noted men appeared to be designated to provide security for the compound, with some posted at guard shacks.
“Although no activity of extreme significance was observed (the presence of armed sentries guarding the perimeter of the compound excluded) during this period of surveillance, it was obvious that measures to insure that the activities taking place at this location were well insulated from public view,” the report said.
Investigators interviewed six area residents, who each requested anonymity for the report, and found them to be consistent. The report summarized the information:
- The encampment has been in operation for at least 20 years and appears to maintain a steady level of occupancy. Each source confirmed the existence of at least one armed guard at the main entrance, especially during “special events” that result in a significant number of visitors by vehicle. The events appear to be meetings or religious services held within the compound.
- Nearly every weekend, sound of gunfire can be heard from the camp. According to one neighbor who stated he’s a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, some of the weapons obviously are “automatic” and large-caliber. On at least two occasions last summer, area residents heard small explosions.
- The occupants won’t allow anyone not affiliated with their organization to enter the encampment. All of the residents stated they’ve never observed a marked law enforcement vehicle enter the compound at any time.
- Visitors to the compound are numerous and frequent. All visitors appear to be black males operating late model vehicles, mostly SUVs, and many possess license plates from Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee.
- At least once each week, private deliveries of unknown items are made to the camp by unmarked box-style trucks. The trucks, usually at the compound for two to three hours at a time, are operated by black males or men who appear to be of Middle Eastern origin.
- Men of Middle Eastern origin appear to be “frequent guests” of the encampment, many in traditional Islamic attire. Some appear to stay at the encampment for three to four days or longer. During the visits, activity and security at the compound is heightened noticeably.
The report also says it found that a number of the residents of the compound work for the New York State Thruway, as tollbooth operators in the New York City area or are employed at a nearby center that processes credit card transactions and maintains vital confidential financial records.
The report concludes additional investigation by law enforcement authorities is required.
“The appropriate action must be taken now to insure the safety and security of the United States, or it is certain that we will be forced to deal with the consequences. …”