Federal agents have raided several convenience stores and a mosque in tiny Henderson, N.C., while arresting at least two Muslim men in connection with the raid.
WND — Authorities suspect the stores were operating a so-called hawala money-transfer network supporting terrorist activities in Yemen, including al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, WND has learned. AQAP’s leaders include fugitive al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been linked to 10 major terror plots in the past year alone.
Mohamed Mohamed Nagi, 33, and Abdullah Ahmed Almuwallad, 32, have been charged with food stamp fraud. Additionally, Almuwallad has been charged with transporting stolen cigarettes and possession of the illegal stimulant cathinone, more commonly known a khat. Khat is popular in many countries of the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa, but in Yemen it’s a full-blown national addiction.
FBI agents have had both men under surveillance for several months. Federal, state and local law enforcement agents on Thursday searched four stores in Henderson, located about 40 miles north of Raleigh, N.C., including the stores where Nagi and Almuwallad worked. Agents converged on the targets using a helicopter and unmarked cars.
At least two of the stores – Dabney Pit Stop and Brothers Food Mart – are owned by Abdo Ali Saleh, 39, a Yemeni national who immigrated to the U.S in 1997 on a student visa, federal authorities told WND. Saleh also operates a mosque and madrassa behind another store he owns, Henderson Furniture Outlet Inc., which also has been under surveillance.
Authorities described the small mosque, which serves about three dozen Muslims, as a “place of interest” and Saleh as a “person of interest” in the investigation. Saleh has not been charged with a crime, but sources say charges may be pending.
State records show Saleh, who could not be reached for comment, also owns the Greystone Variety Mart and Raleigh Road Best Bet in Henderson. Authorities say Saleh has at least two relatives in the area – Mohamed Saleh and Najeeb Saleh. He also is related to Saleh Saleh in Dearborn, Mich. Federal records show Saleh has worked as a U.S. flag vessel operator.
Investigators suspect proceeds from cigarette smuggling and food stamp irregularities have been laundered through the Henderson stores to terror front groups in Yemen. Well-organized Islamic and other cigarette smuggling networks generate between $200,000 and $300,000 per week in New York alone, found a 2008 House Homeland Security Committee staff report.
In May, Hazam Ali Ahmed of Knoxville, Tenn., pleaded guilty to 16 federal firearms, conspiracy, cigarette smuggling and money laundering charges. He bought 20,000 cartons of cigarettes from low-tax Tennessee and resold them in high-tax Michigan. Ahmed in turn sent the profits to the Middle East. An FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force wiretap caught Ahmed recruiting for al-Qaeda and talking about blowing up a shopping mall.
Myrick, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was criticized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for (CORRECTLY) singling out Arabs and Muslims. Myrick explains terrorism-in-convenience stores comment
But Myrick says she was referring, among other things, to a June 2002 case involving Mohamad Hammoud of Charlotte, N.C., who was convicted on federal charges of materially supporting terrorism. He and nine other Muslim men were convicted on related charges. The conspirators bought cigarettes in North Carolina, which then had a 5-cent-per-pack tax, applied bogus tax stamps, and then sold them in 75-cent-tax Michigan.
The Lebanese gang funneled millions in profits from the illegal smuggling operation to Hezbollah, along with stun guns, night-vision goggles, blasting equipment and other gear they bought for the terrorist group.
The Somali community also has been the subject of federal investigations into terrorist money-laundering involving food stamps. Federal agents suspect Somali refugees have funneled millions of dollars from food-stamp fraud and drug sales through Somali grocery stores into overseas bank accounts used by al-Qaeda.
CAIR has defended the Somali store owners against the allegations, even meeting with the head of the civil-rights unit of the USDA to complain about the agency’s food-stamp investigations, which it argues are “causing enormous harm to the owners and the Somali community,” reveals a confidential CAIR memo published in the book, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”