IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Feds: Son of slain Mich. Islamic leader arrested

Authorities capture the son of the slain leader of a radical Detroit-area Islamic group in Canada on Thursday, a day after a raid at a suburban warehouse ended in gunfire.
FBI Raids Michigan
Yellow police tape is seen outside a trucking and warehouse firm in Dearborn, Mich., after an FBI raid on Wednesday. David Guralnick / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Authorities captured the son of the slain leader of a radical Detroit-area Islamic group in Canada on Thursday, a day after the FBI arrested several members and a raid at a suburban warehouse ended in gunfire.

The FBI asked for the public's help in catching two of the 11 suspects in the case still at large, and they emphasized that the group, a faction of the radical U.S. Sunni Islamic group Ummah, held beliefs that were not at all representative of mainstream Islam.

"Any Muslim who took a look at what these people believed would not recognize this as the Muslim faith," Andrew Arena, the head of the FBI in Detroit.

Local police arrested Mujahid Carswell, the 30-year-old son of slain group leader Luqman Ameen Abdullah, across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, where he lived, the FBI said.

Abdullah, 53, was killed during a shootout Wednesday with federal agents. He was one of 11 people named in a criminal complaint. The charges included conspiracy to sell stolen goods and illegal possession and sale of firearms.

Arena on Thursday declined to offer any other details about the raid.

"This is obviously something we don't relish. But in the end, we take solace that we took some bad people off the street," he said.

Nobody charged with terrorism
Neither Abdullah nor his co-defendants were charged with terrorism. But he was "advocating and encouraging his followers to commit violent acts against the United States," FBI agent Gary Leone wrote in an affidavit filed with the 43-page complaint Wednesday.

The FBI said Abdullah, also known as Christopher Thomas, was an imam, or prayer leader, of a faction of a radical group named Ummah whose primary mission is to establish an Islamic state within the U.S.

"This is a very hybrid radical ideology. I don't know that I'd call it a religion," Arena said.

Ummah is a movement with no central religious authority, so it's impossible to say what the group's factions teach in their mosques.

Abdullah told followers that it was their "duty to oppose the FBI and the government and it does not matter if they die" and to "simply shoot a cop in the head" if they wanted the officer's bulletproof vest, Leone wrote in the court filing.

The affidavit also said bombs, guns and even the recipe for TNT were among Abdullah's regular topics with his allies. Group members and former members said they were "willing to do anything Abdullah instructs and/or preaches, even including criminal conduct and acts of violence," the FBI agent wrote.

Eight of the 10 people charged with Abdullah were in custody, including a state prison inmate. Another man not named in the complaint also was arrested.

Two others still at large
Two suspects were still at large: Yassir Ali Khan, 30, of Warren, Mich., and Ontario, and Mohammad Philistine, 33, of Ontario.

The FBI's harsh portrayal of Abdullah doesn't match what Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter, said he knew of him.

"He would open up the mosque to homeless people. He used to run a soup kitchen and feed indigent people," Walid said. "I knew nothing of him that was related to any nefarious or criminal behavior."

Walid said Abdullah had a wife and children. A phone number for the family had been disconnected.

Ummah believes that a separate Islamic state in the U.S. would be controlled by Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison in Colorado for shooting two police officers in Georgia in 2000, Leone said.

Converted to Islam in prison
Al-Amin, a veteran of the black power movement, started the group after he converted to Islam in prison.

"They're not taking their cues from overseas," said Jimmy Jones, a professor of world religions at Manhattanville College and a longtime Muslim prison chaplain. "This group is very much American born and bred."

Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said he talked to FBI Director Robert Mueller after the shooting, and that the FBI is trying to determine if the men were a "bunch of thugs with bluster" or possible homegrown jihadists.

"Everybody wants to be hypersensitive. ... They want to be sure before anyone makes a claim like that," Hoekstra told The Associated Press.

Abdullah's mosque is in a brick duplex on a residential street in Detroit. A sign on the door in English and Arabic reads, in part, "There is no God but Allah." The mosque was located elsewhere in the city until the property was lost in January because of unpaid taxes.

When the eviction took place, a search turned up empty shell casings and large holes in the concrete wall of a "shooting range," Leone said.

The FBI built its case over two years with the help of confidential sources close to Abdullah who recorded conversations and participated in undercover operations involving the sale of furs, laptop computers, televisions, energy drinks and power tools.

Abdullah received at least 20 percent of any profit and claimed the "Prophet Muhammad said that it is okay to participate in theft; as long as that person prays, they are in a good state," Leone wrote in the affidavit.

Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dearborn, said the FBI briefed him about the arrests.

"We know that this is not something to be projected as something against Muslims," Hamad said.