A Utah link to terrorism?
FIVE ARRESTED: Al-Qaida suspect's relatives nabbed on fraud charges
Counterterrorist agents pounced on five men, one in Utah and four in California, on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the U.S. connections of a suspected senior al-Qaida operative imprisoned in Iraq.
But for now, the federal indictments against the men - all of whom have ties to Utah and all of whom are related to accused terrorist Shawqi Omar - involve only fraud and money laundering.
But FBI agents say that some of the money alleged to have been stolen in various schemes wound up in Jordan. And now they want to know whether that cash has ended up in the hands of terrorists.
"We would be derelict not to investigate where that money is going," said agent Greg Bretzing, a supervisor in the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Utah.
The Omar family has extensive ties in Jordan, where Shawqi Omar moved his family in 1995 and where he now stands accused of helping terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi plot a chemical attack.
Al-Zarqawi claims to be al-Qaida's Iraqi leader and has been implicated in scores of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. The U.S. government has put a $25 million bounty on his head.
Federal investigators believe Shawqi Omar acted as al-Zarqawi's "personal emissary" in several Iraqi cities. But back in Utah, Omar's brother Gus says there is no connection.
"If you're a Sunni and from Jordan and in Iraq, then you're bound to meet somebody who has met Zarqawi, but Shawqi doesn't know him," said Gus Omar, who has not been implicated in the case against his brothers.
In court filings, U.S. military officials have offered evidence to the contrary, saying Omar had taken al-Zarqawi's sister-in-law as a second wife.
Omar, who worked as a refrigerator repairman when he lived in Utah in the late-1980s, was arrested in Iraq on Oct. 29, 2004. U.S. military officials have alleged the 44-year-old man, acting on al-Zarqawi's behalf, was harboring one Iraqi insurgent and four Jordanian fighters at his Baghdad home. He had also plotted the kidnapping of American workers in Iraq, U.S. officers alleged.
Omar could be the first American citizen to be tried in the Iraqi court system, if military officials prevail in an ongoing legal battle. It is a prospect his family in the United States is fighting to prevent. A document filed by Omar's lawyers this week, in which they have again requested access to their client, alleged that U.S. troops beat Omar and tortured him with electric shocks.
Bassam Omar, who family members say was the joint owner of the construction company Shawqi Omar was managing in Baghdad at the time of his arrest, has denied his brother is a member of al-Qaida.
"He is not a terrorist," he told NBC News in February, "and it's not fair to him or us."
Now Bassam Omar is behind bars.
The San Diego engineer, who owns several Utah businesses, was taken into federal custody on Wednesday, hours after another Omar brother, Sharif, was arrested at his home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights.
Two nephews and a brother-in-law were also detained in California.
The Utah arrest came as a shock to neighbors in the upscale gated subdivision where Sharif Omar has lived with his wife and three children for more than a year.
"Of anybody here, he's the last guy I would have expected to get arrested," said neighbor Bob Skanchy.
Friends said that Sharif Omar's family seemed to have rapidly climbed the economic ladder over the past few years, though state records indicate most of the dozens of businesses he and his relatives have owned along the Wasatch Front have closed.
Skanchy said homes in the community can cost upwards of $500,000. Two luxury sport utility vehicles were parked in front of the Omar home Wednesday afternoon.
Inside the newly built house, Hannah Omar said she had yet to be told why her husband had been arrested.
"I don't know what's going on," she said. "I haven't even talked to our lawyer."
She'll have an opportunity to learn more today at her husband's arraignment on charges of bank fraud and money laundering.
The four indictments allege that the Omar family members, aided by three other Utahns, defrauded banks of hundreds of thousands of dollars with bad mortgage and car loans from 2000 to 2004.
In at least one instance, Omar nephew Ihab Ramadan allegedly wired $50,000 to an account in Amman, Jordan, according to the indictments. Ramadan was arrested at his Chula Vista, Calif., home early Wednesday.
Another Omar nephew, Alaa Ramadan, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after FBI agents received word he was returning from Jordan, where friends say he has lived for several years. The fifth family member, identified as Omar's brother-in-law Ahmad Abudan, was arrested in the San Diego area on the same day.
A federal grand jury in Utah indicted the men several months ago but those charges were kept under seal until the agents were sure of Alaa Ramadan's return. Omar family members said Alaa made his living in real estate and spends most of his time in the Middle East.
The other Utahns named in the indictments for their role in an alleged mortgage scam - Rebecca Teece, James Gibbons and Teri Hansen - have been summoned to appear in court but have not been arrested, though Gibbons is currently in custody on unrelated charges.
The Omar family has worked tirelessly to ensure that Shawqi Omar, currently being held at a U.S. prison facility in Iraq known as Camp Bucca, will be provided legal council and not be turned over to the Iraqi court system.
According to documents filed Friday in a Washington, D.C., federal court, Omar's attorney Susan Burke claims he is being tortured. She said she received an unexpected phone call from Omar on April 13, in which her client told her that "Americans, claiming to be Federal Bureau of Investigation agents, beat him severely and applied electric shocks to his body."
"The agents claimed they could kill him if they wanted to," Burke wrote. "The American agents threatened to rape his son if Mr. Omar failed to provide information. A translator believed by Mr. Omar to be Moroccan threatened to rape Mr. Omar's wife, who was also in United States' military custody at the time."
Burke - who earlier won a temporary injunction barring Omar's transfer to an Iraqi court - has requested access to Omar's medical files, any photographs taken after the alleged beatings and tape recordings of their conversation.
She also demanded immediate and continued contact with her client, who U.S. officials have alleged would often use his U.S. passport to gain access to guarded Baghdad hotels in order to entice foreigners to his home, where they would be kidnapped for ransom.
Regardless of the allegations in Iraq, Gus Omar believes the FBI is manufacturing a connection between Shawqi Omar's alleged terrorist actions and the family's U.S. business holdings.
"There is no connection," said Gus Omar, who works at a car dealership in Murray owned by the recently arrested Omar brothers.
Bretzing, the FBI counterterrorism supervisor, said Utah's FBI office previously received a tip about the family's alleged financial misdeeds, but didn't start its investigation until January 2005.
That came at a time when counterterrorism agents throughout the country were investigating Shawqi Omar's American ties.
The FBI's top officer in Salt Lake City said the counterterrorism task force isn't done yet.
"From our perspective, this investigation is not over," said Timothy Fuhrman. "This is another tool in our tool box to advance the investigation. . . . Sometimes you get an indictment and then people cooperate."
It would not be the first time federal investigators have leveraged mortgage fraud charges against a suspect in order to gain compliance in a terrorism investigation.
In December, a federal jury acquitted University of South Florida doctoral student Sameeh Hammoudeh of charges that he helped fund and supported a Palestinian terrorist group.
But Hammoudeh remains in custody and he has been ordered to be deported from the United States because officials were able to obtain a conviction on other charges - including mortgage fraud.
After Penn State began receiving complaints about the
cancellation, this past Friday night (Josh had to be called
out from services), the university said he could have the
exhibit but that he would have to remove Hillel as a
sponsor. Josh refused (Hillel and other org.s have
sponsored such exhibits before - they were throwing in a
whopping $75 - 100 for refreshments and flyers). Josh asked
them for an apology to him and to Hillel for the abrupt
cancellation and the way the university has treated them.
They have ignored that request. Penn State knew when it
issued the statement that the exhibit would go forward that
their condition precedent was not accepted.
Further - Josh was told by his art advisor that he and his
art is racist and that Israel has "no right to exist." The
flyer for his exhibition (put up before it was cancelled)
was defaced with a swastika - Josh made the university aware
of this - PSU did nothing in response.
A meeting was scheduled that was supposed to be between the
head of the art department, Josh, and Tuvia Abramson, the
Hillel director, to discuss the "issues" the university had
about the artwork. Just before the meeting was to take
place, Josh and Tuvia learned that a whole bunch of other
people, INCLUDING STUDENTS FROM THE MUSLIM STUDENT
ASSOCIATION, were invited. Josh said forget it - he is
happy to talk to anyone and everyone about his artwork, but
this meeting was supposed to be a private meeting about why
the show was cancelled and to work out the issues. Sure
smells like a different agenda was operating for the
I am scrambling to get this to you in case you want to
inform people right away that Penn State has not only
manipulated Josh Stulman but is now attempting to manipulate
anyone who expresses concern about the situation by making
it look like the problem is Josh and/or the wonderful
student reporter, Jessica Remitz, who originally brought the
story to light. Penn State has claimed there has been
"misinformation in the media." But every single story I've
seen has been based completely on Remitz's original story
and she drew her facts directly from emails PSU sent Josh.
Lori (Lowenthal) "
April 24, 2006 -- WASHINGTON - The State Department blocked a New York congresswoman from traveling to Qatar after being informed she planned to raise sharp questions about a high-ranking Qatar official's relationship with the al Qaeda terror network, The Post has learned. Rep. Sue Kelly (R-Katonah) confirmed that she was forced to cancel a visit to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month after the State Department raised questions about her eligibility to receive official travel expenses.
State Department officials raised concerns about funding with Kelly the same day they allowed another member of Congress to receive funds under the same exchange program to travel to Qatar, sources told The Post.
State Department officials had no immediate comment on why Kelly's trip was scuttled.
But the sudden action came as Kelly, who chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, had been raising a number of questions about terrorism financing in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE.
Kelly has been particularly vocal about Qatari Interior Minister Abdullah bin Khalid al Thani, who has been identified as a major al Qaeda supporter.
Bill Hobbs, a Republican political advisor, blogger, and news writer for Belmont, which bills itself as “the largest Christian university in Tennessee,” was upset in February 2006 about the cowardice of the American media in not publishing the Danish cartoons. So he drew a primitive cartoon of his own and posted it on his personal site. It sat in obscurity until April 5, when a Democratic political operative, Mike Kopp, wrote about it, calling it:
a bizzare page with the heading Draw Mohammed that spotlights a stick drawing of the Prophet Mohammed holding a bomb. The cartoon is entitled “Mohammend Blows.” Under the cartoon Hobbs issues an invite to “exercise your right to free expression by drawing pictures of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed”. He ends the post with the phrase “Here’s my first mo-toon.” All this was posted at 12:40 pm, on Friday, February 24, 2006.
Hobbs responded within a few hours on Kopp’s website, writing (spelling mistakes uncorrected):
I live in America, and am blessed to have the First Amendment, and am angry that the American media is too cowardly in the face of Islamofacists to run the cartoons. I posted that cartoon, and invited others to draw their own cartoons, as a way of protesting both American media cowardice and Islamist attempts to suppress free speech via threats of bombs and bullets and burning and beheading. But then I never publicized the site and, quite frankly, forgot is was up until today.
P.S. I am insensitve toward religions that have a large number of adherents who are running around blowing stuff up and threatening to kill non-believers over cartoons. Yes, I plead insensitivity. I would prefer my children not grow up in a world governed by Islamofacists.
On April 13, John Spragens of Nashville Scene picked up on this story in an article titled “One local blogger’s crude cartoon, posing as principle, betrays little more than tackiness.” He included a miniature version of the page in question (see illustration). As his headline implies, Spragens (who, another blog notes, is leaving the Nashville Scene to work for a Democrat, U.S. Representative Jim Cooper) came down heavily on Hobbs:
by deliberately desecrating Islam’s central figure—“the ‘Prophet Mohammed’” as Hobbs sneered, using quote marks for sardonic emphasis—he attacked an entire religion, not a group of fanatics who pervert the religion’s teachings. Then he drew him as a bearded stick figure holding a bomb and said he “blows.” It seems bearded Muslim terrorists are the new big-nosed, money-grubbing Jews. The more things change…. [ellipsis in original]
On the other side, Roger Abramson, Spragens’ predecessor at Nashville Scene, defended Hobbs early on April 14.
Nonetheless, the damage had been done. Hobbs announced in the late morning at NashvilleFiles.com, “I am resigning from Belmont University in an amicable and mutual parting of the ways, effective Monday [April 17].”
A week later, the university has let calls from the press asking for more information go unreturned and has made no statement about Hobbs’ resignation. Its silence attracted notice in the blogosphere (for example, from Hugh Hewitt) but still not a word was forthcoming.
Although it was an article in the Nashville Scene that prompted the resignation, that publication’s editor, Liz Garrigan, came down hard on Belmont:
Belmont’s action here—assuming this was a forced resignation, and I think everyone believes it is—is cowardly. I mean, Hobbs’ political views haven’t been a secret. Why is the school suddenly putting stock in what we have to say about one action by one individual? The school shouldn’t sacrifice him just because we happen to think that something he did was pretty tacky.
“Pretty tacky” is putting it mildly; Belmont’s actions have real consequences. Like the Danish corporation Arla Foods denouncing the cartoons or the Swedish foreign minister forcing the cartoons off a website, this firing in Tennessee amounts to a capitulation to Islamic law. Each surrender means the Shari‘a will move inexorably forward.
"Question: To Whom this may concern,
In recent news articles regarding Al Jazeera's soon-to-be-opening
American network, your company was specifically mentioned as one of the
very few who are expressing any interest in bring their channel to
American airwaves. Despite the fact that they claim to be 'fair and
balanced' in their reporting, their almost constant use of anti-American
and anti-Semetic rhetoric gives Americans reason to think otherwise. Right
now, the media is powerful tool used by Islamic Fundamentalists who wish
nothing more than to destroy and/or dominate the West. Al Jazeera stirs
anti-West, anti-"Infidel" sentiment in the Muslim World, thus helping to
create more willing and enthusiastic shaheeds (homocide-bombers) and
terrorists to attack American and Western establishments. I don't speak
out of hate or intolerance of people in the Middle East. I consider myself
to be a very tolerant, open-minded person. However, there comes a point
when tolerance turns into appeasement, and open-mindedness into a complete
lack of loyalty to one's own country. Don't allow Al Jazeera on our
airwaves, for the sake of our country. And don't be intimidated by those
who call you a 'hatemonger' or a 'bigot' simply because you refuse to
distribute anti-American propaganda.
I will respect and admire you for it, and so will anybody who truly loves
Thank you, Generic Blogger "
Subject: RE: Programming, 8015551212 Date: 4/21/2006 6:02:04 P.M. Mountain Standard Time
"Dear Generic Blogger,
Thank you for your email. DISH Network offers over 500 channels, with programming that caters to every interest, from family programming to news to sports to children’s programming. Just like other pay TV providers, DISH Network offers this channel in a select package to only those customers who wish to purchase it. It is not broadcast to any customer who does not specifically request and pay for the channel. We care about your feedback and have forwarded your comments to management. Thank you for contacting us. " Okay, I wasn't expecting the good folks at DISH to say anything more or less than this, but I'm still annoyed. If these guys were my alcoholic spouse (this isn't, by the way, based upon reality), and I were a frustrated wife trying to get through to him, this is what our dialogue would sound like: (me) Honey, you've got to stop drinking. The kids and I are tired of seeing you passed-out every night on the sofa". (husband): "Oh, you're so cute when you're angry! All right, sweetie. Tell you what. When I'm at the bar tonight, sloshing down a pint with my buddies, I'll think about what you said".
JERUSALEM -- The leadership of a West Bank Palestinian city now controlled by Hamas has warned a local Young Men's Christian Association to close its offices and leave town or face likely Muslim violence, WorldNetDaily has learned.
The move highlighted long-standing fears Hamas would use its win in last January's Palestinian parliamentary elections to impose an anti-Christian, anti-Jewish hard-line Islamist regime in the West Bank and Gaza.
"The face of the new Hamas government is coming to the forefront now that they finally took over and have a lot more confidence. They want to create a territory free of Christians and Jews," said a Christian leader associated with the YMCA in Qalqiliya, a West Bank town under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority.
Yesterday, major Muslim organizations in Qalqiliya in conjunction with local mosques, the city's Mufti and municipal leaders, sent a letter to the interior minister of the Hamas-led PA accusing the YMCA of missionary activities and demanding the Palestinian government immediately shut down the Christian offices.
The YMCA has operated in Qalqiliya since 2000.
The petition, obtained by WND, states, "We the preachers of the mosques and representatives of major families in Qalqiliya ask you to close the offices of the YMCA because the population of Qalqiliya doesn't need such offices, especially since there are not many Christians in our city."
It warned, "The act of these institutions of the YMCA, including attempting to convert Muslims in our city, will bring violence and tension."
Already this past weekend several Molotov cocktails were thrown at Qalqiliya's YMCA.
Local political sources said the attacks followed Friday sermons in dozens of Qalqiliya mosques in which preachers called upon the community to revolt against the YMCA.
"There was a coordination among the mosques to speak about the YMCA Friday night. One major imam, for example, warned if the YMCA doesn't close down it will lead to 'acts that no one would like to see,'" said one political source.
Joseph Medi, the YMCA manager in Qalqiliya, told WND his operation has never been involved with missionary activity.
"It's not what we're about. There is no missionary activity here whatsoever. The YMCA is in the city to serve the population with financial help, sporting activities and general educational programs," said Medi.
Medi pointed out many employees at his branch of the YMCA are Muslim. He said the YMCA was instrumental in establishing a number of community programs, including contributing to the financing of the Al Ahli Club, a mostly Muslim local soccer organization that has competed in national games.
Medi said Qalqiliya's YMCA received a final notification from local leaders warning the association to close its offices before "drastic measures" were taken. He said no specific measures were specified.
Qalqiliya is located at the West Bank's point of closest proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. There are reported only about 50-100 Christians in a population of about 28,300. The city's mayor, Sheikh Waji Qawwas, is a Hamas member just released from Israeli prison yesterday.
Hamas swept all 15 municipal offices in local elections in Qalqiliya in December. The terror group went on to win the vast majority of Palestinian parliamentary seats in January and officially took over the Palestinian Authority earlier this month.
One Christian leader, an aide to Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah who asked his name be withheld out of fear of Muslim retaliation, called the threats against Qalqiliya's YMCA part of a general trend of Christian persecution in Palestinian areas.
"It's been happening all over the West Bank and Gaza," said the aide.
There have been rampant reports of abuses and persecution in several West Bank towns taken over by the PA.
Anti-Christian riots have been reported in Ramallah, Nazareth and surrounding villages as well as in towns in Gaza.
In Bethlehem, local Christians have long complained of anti-Christian violence. The city's Christian population, once 90 percent, declined drastically since the PA took control in December 1995. Christians now make up less than 25 percent of Bethlehem, according to Israeli surveys.
The demands for the YMCA to close are also the latest in a series of reports indicating Hamas may be seeking to impose Taliban-like Islamic rule.
Israeli officials say Hamas in the Gaza Strip has established hard-line Islamic courts and created the Hamas Anti-Corruption Group, which is described as a kind of "morality police" operating within Hamas' organization. Hamas has denied the existence of the anti-corruption group, but it recently carried out a high-profile "honor killing" widely covered by the Palestinian media.
A Hamas-run council in the West Bank came under international criticism last year when it barred an open-air music and dance festival, declaring it was against Islam.
In response to the uproar, Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told WND during an exclusive interview: "I hardly understand the point of view of the West concerning these issues. The West brought all this freedom to its people but it is that freedom that has brought about the death of morality in the West. It's what led to phenomena like homosexuality, homelessness and AIDS."
Asked if Hamas will impose hard-line Islamic law on the Palestinians, al-Zahar responded, "The Palestinian people are Muslim people, and we do not need to impose anything on our people because they are already committed to their faith and religion. People are free to choose their way of life, their way of dress and behavior."
Al-Zahar said his terror group, which demands strict dress codes for females, respects women's rights.
"It is wrong to think that in our Islamic society there is a lack of rights for women. Women enjoy their rights. What we have, unlike the West, is that young women cannot be with men and have relations outside marriage. Sometimes with tens of men. This causes the destruction of the family institution and the fact that many kids come to the world without knowing who are their fathers or who are their mothers. This is not a modern and progressed society," al-Zahar explained.
The terror chieftain told WND the West can learn from his group's Islamic values.
"Here I refer to what was said in the early '90s by Britain's Prince Charles at Oxford University. He spoke about Islam and its important role in morality and culture. He said the West must learn from Islam how to bring up children properly and to teach them the right values."
|This just in from my UAC inbox. While I don't agree with everything in this article, just look at the stats and what he says about Syria. Why don't we hear more about Syria in the news?? From: "rsh1776" |
Subject: The New York Times: WHAT A PITY!!!!!!!!!
In the current edition of the NY Times,
After 1,125 days, the
In another development, it appears that the information that the President relied on before going into
For those who have interest, I’ll be speaking on Militant Islam in the