Jamaat Al-Muslimeen

Yasin Abu Bakr - White Robe
Yasin Abu Bakr – White Robe

Fuqra/MOA is linked to the Trinidad-based Jamaat Al-Muslimeen (JAM) extremist group that is best known for trying to overthrow the government in a 1990 coup. MOA currently has a presence in Trinidad, as explained the section about Fuqra/MOA activity outside of the U.S.

A 2008 U.S. State Department memo said that JAM’s prestige fell after the 1990 coup and “the JAM now is alleged to be essentially a criminal gang, not a terrorist group and also involved on the fringes of local politics.”[1] 

A 2007 FBI document about a terrorist plot against JFK International Airport, in which Al-Qaeda operatives tried to get support from JAM, states that JAM is involved in violent crimes, drug/gang-related murders, robberies, explosives and kidnappings of middle-class persons for ransom.

Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM) was founded in 1979 or 1980 (sources differ on the exact timing). The current leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, has the birth name of Lennox Philip. He is currently based at a commune in the St. James part of the Port of Spain.

Yasin Abu Bakr is reported to have been a follower of Sheikh Gilani’s.[2] MOA published a book in 1994 that acknowledged that it has used the name “Jamaat ul Muslimeen,” just as it had used the name “Jamaat ul Fuqra,” but denied that either was the name of an actual organization. MOA said these were general Islamic terms to express a Muslim community’s poverty.[3] A 2007 FBI document states that JAM was “modeled” after Fuqra.

Yasin Abu Bakr was a police officer in Trinidad until he retired in 1968. He converted to Islam in the early 70s. At some point, he belonged to the Islamic Party of North America’s branch in Trinidad.[4]

JAM merged with the Islamic Party of North America in 1982. He went to school for engineering in Montreal. He returned to Trinidad in 1984 (other sources date his return as happening in 1978. Yasin Abu Bakr also founded the Caribbean Islamic Research Institute, an organization that was supportive of the Libyan regime led by Gaddafi. A declassified 2007 FBI file also makes reference to a connection with the World Islamic Call Society.

JAM began seizing land for building isolated communes, similar to those built by MOA in the U.S. and Canada. JAM took over land near Port of Spain that was previously given to an East Indian Islamic group by the government. A 10-acre compound was partially built on this group’s land, including a mosque, common kitchen and homes for members.

The government of Trinidad suspected it was forming a seditious Islamist militia and demanded that it leave the land that it occupied. The authorities blocked a shipment from overseas that ostensibly consisted of medical supplies, but the government believed the shipment was actually arms or contraband from Libya. Raids on JAM sites resulted in discovering caches of weapons.

 


1990 Failed Coup

Imam Yasin Abu Bakr led approximately 250 JAM militants in trying to overthrow the government of Trinidad in July 1990.

The coup was launched with assistance from JAM operatives in the U.S. who may be linked to MOA.

In 1989, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms learned that Louis Haneef, originally named Louis Coleman, purchased $100,000 worth of firearms, ammunition and supplies over nine months in the area of Miami, Florida.

The ATF knew that he purchased firearms at a gun show in Fort Lauderdale. The Bureau interviewed him and he said he bought the weapons with funding from a source in New York. Haneef brought $32,000 with him from Trinidad into the U.S. and received an additional $18,000 sent to his account from Yasin Abu Bakr. An ATF report about the coup said it was unknown where the rest of the funding necessary for Haneef’s purchases came from.[5]

The shipment of 200 firearms; 250,000 rounds of ammunition; two-way radio gear; radio base stations and other equipment to Trinidad was arranged by an individual named Bilal Abdullah. The weapons were shipped to Port of Spain, Trinidad hidden by a pallet of hollowed plywood sheets.

JAM says that the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi was not involved in the coup, even though the regime was a sponsor of JAM and Yasin Abu Bakr described Gaddafi as a “personal friend.” About seven months prior to the coup, three Libyans came to Trinidad and met with JAM. Yasin Abu Bakr and two top aides went to Libya for training shortly thereafter.

MOA literature criticized Gaddafi during this time period for his “Green Book” outlining his political and religious ideology. However, although MOA considered Gaddafi to be contradicting Islam, Sheikh Gilani said that MOA would work with other Muslims against common enemies. An undated document written by MOA somewhere between 1989 and 1992 stated that women from Libya and Trinidad  participated in a MOA event for women in California in 1988. The document was a request for $1 million from the Sultan of Brunei.

Yasin Abu Bakr does not regret the coup. He blames the government for “occupying” JAM land, abusing JAM members, inhibiting the group’s supposed efforts to stop drug traffickers and corruption. He claimed that they learned two weeks before the coup attempt that the government was preparing to seize the JAM compound, destroy all of its buildings and kill anyone who resisted arrest. He said that there is a bigger story about the coup that he is not yet ready to reveal.[6]


1991 “Festival of Lights” Bomb Plot in Toronto

In 1991, five Fuqra/MOA members were arrested as they crossed over the Canadian border into the U.S. shortly before they planned to bomb the Indian Centre Cinema and Vishnu Hindu temple in Richmond Hill, Toronto, killing up to 4,500 people during the Hindu Festival of Lights event.[7]

Canadian authorities said that the plotters had close links to Yasin Abu Bakr, the leader of JAM. They said that JAM does not claim to be a part of Fuqra/MOA but “their objectives and methods are alarmingly similar.”[8]

Three of the plotters were deported to their homeland of Trinidad in 2006. Intelligence sources say that the MOA has a relationship with JAM in Trinidad and Venezuela. One of the MOA convicts, Tyrone Cole (going by the name of Barry Adams), is said to be working under the auspices of JAM in establishing MOA operations in Venezuela. MOA-affiliated sources say he is known as “Khalifa Abu Bakr,” not to be confused with “Imam” Yasin Abu Bakr.

FOX News journalist Catherine Herridge reported in 2007 that a law enforcement source told her that four MOA members had recently been in Trinidad and were suspected of meeting “Abu Bakr,” the leader of JAM. It is possible that this was actually a reference to Cole.


2007 JFK Airport Terror Plot

Four suspected terrorists were indicted in 2007 for planning to attack the JFK Airport in New York, three of which lived in Trinidad. One was on his way to Venezuela. The operatives repeatedly traveled to Trinidad and Guyana and solicited JAM for assistance. They met JAM in the Port of Spain compound and JAM expressed tentative interest in helping carry the plot out.[9]

Only one operative met with Yasin Abu Bakr.[10] He denied knowing anything about the plot.[11] They also tried to get a senior Al-Qaeda terrorist named Adnan El-Shukrijumah involved.[12] There is significant evidence indicating that the Iranian regime was involved in the plot.[13]

The U.S.-based Jamaat al-Muslimeen claims that the operatives involved in the plot are innocent. Its website encourages readers to write letters of support to Kareem Ibrahim in jail. One event described a JAM member from Brooklyn going by the name of “Abu Talib” distributing literature about the alleged persecution of the plotters “who are being tried in the fake JFK ‘terrorism’ case.”[14]


MOA’s Islamic Political Party & JAM

MOA may have a relationship with JAM through a front named the Islamic Political Party of America (IPPA). It is likely, albeit unproven, that the JAM that IPPA partners with is the same JAM that exists in Trinidad.

The “amir” of a U.S.-based group named Jamaat Al-Muslimeen is Dr. Kaukab Siddique in Baltimore, Maryland. He preaches fierce anti-Americanism, describing the U.S. government as a “satanic system” that is “under Zionist control.” He also denies the Holocaust and describes the Holocaust as a “Jewish milk cow.”[15]

The website does not address a possible connection to the Trinidad-based JAM or Yasin Abu Bakr. It says it has a mosque, Masjid Jamaat al-Muslimeen, in Baltimore. It also claims to have mosques in Knoxville, Tennessee and Oak Ridge.[16] It also says it is active in Texas where it has Hispanic outreach led by a member named Robert Solano.[17] The website links to the Gulistan-e-Shima Memorial School in Lahore, Pakistan.[18] The U.S.-based JAM is also active in Pennsylvania and New York.[19]

The group supports Islamist extremist leaders like Ayatollah Khomeini that Shiekh Gilani and MOA condemn. This JAM says it opposes terrorist attacks in the U.S. but it is vocally supportive of Islamist terrorists and militants overseas. It is estimated to have 100-200 members.[20]

This U.S.-based JAM’s website was openly supportive of IPPA in 2006.

It referred to an event in Greensboro, N.C. on June 24 where IPPA representatives came to discuss areas of cooperation. It summarized the IPPA’s message:

“In a forceful presentation, the IPPA representative said that formation of a political party does not mean that we are getting involved with the kafir system. We are simply trying to ensure that Muslims are not denied their rights in the realm of politics. The USA is our country and we must ensure that we are not denied whatever is good in this country.”[21]

The U.S.-based JAM had an International Baltimore Conference in 2008 that featured Dr. Suhir Ahmed, a prominent MOA official, speaking as the “national coordinator” of IPPA.[22]

The chairman of IPPA is Jibril Hough and leads its North Carolina chapter. He is a close associate of Ali Rashid, a leader of the MOA commune in South Carolina and a fellow IPPA official.[23]

Imam Badi Ali, a speaker at the JAM-IPPA event and member of the JAM leadership council, issued a fatwa in 2009 ruling that Muslims are required to support the Taliban in fighting against the U.S. and Pakistani military forces. He said that fighting for the U.S. military is strictly prohibited by Islamic Law and that the Taliban “are the fighters in the way of Allah.”[24]


Links to Terrorist Groups

As of 2007, the NSA and CIA were gathering intelligence on JAM because of its links to extremist groups in the Middle East.[25]


Al-Qaeda

U.S. military officials said in 2002 that JAM is linked to Al-Qaeda. Abu Bakr responded that “we don’t know anything about the Al-Qaeda.”[26]

In November 2001, Yasin Abu Bakr’s former security chief, Hassan Anyabwile, went to Sudan and called for “able-bodied” Muslim men to participate in “the jihad” against U.S-led forces in Afghanistan that were fighting Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist terrorists.[27]


Hamas

The JAM’s former website used to have a link directing readers to the Hamas terrorist group’s website.[28]


ISIS Recruitment

A JAM spokesperson named Chris Steve Lewis joined the Islamic State terrorist group, more commonly known by the acronyms of ISIS or ISIL, in 2014. He was killed by the U.S.-led aerial campaign in Syria in 2016. He lied to friends and family members when making the trip to the U.K. to join the group.[29] There is no evidence indicating that he was acting at the direction of JAM’s leadership.

When asked about reports that some second-generation members of JAM had joined the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS/ISIL) in Syria, Abu Bakr deflected by saying:

“I have no idea what ISIS is about so I can make no comment. And as far as I am concerned, I do not know anybody from the Jamaat al-Muslimeen who has gone to ISIS or who has gone to Syria.

That is a no comment question because who is here in Trinidad making comments about ISIS, they know nothing about ISIS and Syria except what they see on the BBC or what they see on CNN and the CNN and the BBC is who [is] dropping bombs in Syria…”[30]

He said that the government of Trinidad is responsible for any Muslims joining ISIS because it discriminates against Muslims. He said that ISIS recruits from Trinidad see living under ISIS’ rule and likely death as better options than living in the country.[31]


FARC

An intelligence source in Trinidad says that JAM does business with the Colombian narco-terrorist group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is better known by the acronym of FARC. The Venezuelan regime is known to have a relationship with FARC.


Venezuela

Intelligence sources say that MOA is operating in Venezuela under the auspices of JAM. A former NYPD informant inside MOA said that the group is active in Venezuela and supportive of then-President Hugo Chavez.[32] MOA acknowledges having an office in Caracas.[33]

Chavez invited Yasin Abu Bakr and JAM representatives to Venezuela for four days in 2004. JAM was openly supportive of the Chavez regime and his anti-American allies like Cuban President Fidel Castro.[34]

A U.S. State Department cable from 2006 reported that “Abu Bakr is treated like a head of state by the Chavez regime.[35]


Libya and Sudan

Yasin Abu Bakr acknowledged that JAM was still getting Libyan financing in 2002. The Trinidad authorities say that JAM has gotten military training from Libya, as well as from the terrorism-sponsoring regime of Sudan.[36]

U.S. military officials said in 2002 that JAM was getting funding from a front for the Libyan regime in Canada named the World Islamic Call Society. JAM representatives also attended a terrorist convention in Libya titled the Libyan World Islamic People’s Conference after the 9/11 attacks.[37]

The Canadian government stripped the World Islamic Call Society of its charity status in 2011 for financing terrorism. The financing included $170,000 sent to JAM and $10,000 directly to Yasin Abu Bakr. The Libyan front was linked to an Al-Qaeda plot to attack JFK Airport in New York City.[38]

JAM-affiliated Facebook pages continue to have pro-Gaddafi pictures. A NYPD informant who was inside MOA indicated that the group had received money from Gaddafi at some point.[39]

JAM’s relationship with the Sudanese regime goes back to the 1990s. President Omar Bashir even gave a ceremonial sword to Yasin Abu Bakr as a gift.[40]


Other Noteworthy Activity

In May 2001, the ATF arrested Keith Glaude in Fort Lauderdale, who said that a JAM member named Lance Small, using the name of Olive Enyahooma-El, was the “consignee to a shipment of machine guns and assault rifles.” The authorities intercepted the JAM weapons shipment.[41]

In 2005, Yasin Abu Bakr was arrested for sedition and incitement after he delivered a sermon calling for violence against wealthy Muslims who do not pay the zakat (tithe) as required by Islamic Law.

Yasin Abu Bakr established the New National Vision political party and it still exists. His son, Fuad, ran in the 2010 elections, as did one of Yasin Abu Bakr’s four wives. The party had candidates for 12 races. It did not win a single seat.[42]

Five armed people with NNV shirts were arrested in the run-up to the elections for allegedly planning election-related attacks. JAM and Fuad Abu Bakr denied involvement.[43]

In 2015, the government discovered a JAM plot to attack police stations, two homes belonging to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissesar and break 11 convicted JAM members out of prison for murdering a prosecutor and 12 that murdered a businesswoman.

JAM denied involvement and said it is not a threat to Trinidad. Yasin Abu Bakr said someone was spreading “rumors” in order to destabilize the country and attributed it to “discrimination against Muslims.”[44]


[1] The Islamic Community in Trinidad and Tobago. (2008). U.S. State Department. Wikileaks. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08PORTOFSPAIN447_a.html

[2] Al-Ahari, Muhammad. (2013). Taking Islam to the Street: The Da’wah of the Islamic Party of North America. Lulu.com.

[3] Ahmad, Dr. Mrs. Suhir. (1994). Target Islam: Exposing the Malicious Conspiracy of the Zionists Against the World of Islam and Prominent Muslim Leader. Quranic Open University and Pakistan Foundation for Strategic Studies.

[4] Al-Ahari, Muhammad. (2013). Taking Islam to the Street: The Da’wah of the Islamic Party of North America. Lulu.com.

[5] The Trinidad Coup D’Etat. (n.d.). Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

[6] Noel, Otancia. (2015). Yasin Abu Bakr: The Drugs Made Me Do It; Jamaat Boss on 1990 Coup. Wired868. http://wired868.com/2015/07/27/yasin-abu-bakr-the-drugs-made-me-do-it-jamaat-boss-on-1990-coup/

[7] Goddard, John. (2010). Forgotten Islamist terror plot targeted Toronto. Toronto Star. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2010/08/31/forgotten_islamist_terror_plot_targeted_toronto.html

[8] Memorandum: Overview of the Fuqra Investigation. (1994). Colorado Office of the Attorney General. Memo from Assistant Attorney General Douglas S. Wamsley to Attorney General Gale A. Norton.

[9] Cara Buckley and William K. Rashbuam. (2007). 4 Men Accused of Plot to Blow Up Kennedy Airport Terminals and Fuel Lines. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/nyregion/03plot.html?_r=0

[10] Islamic Group in Trinidad Faces Scrutiny. (2007). USA Today. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-06-02-guyana-terror_N.htm

[11] Alleged Terrorism Plot at JFK Airport. (2007). Associated Press.

[12] Kareem Ibrahim Sentenced to Life in Prison for Conspiring to Commit Terrorist Attack at JFK Airport. (2012). Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/newyork/press-releases/2012/kareem-ibrahim-sentenced-to-life-in-prison-for-conspiring-to-commit-terrorist-attack-at-jfk-airport

[13] Mahjar-Barducci, Anna. (2011). The Iranian Factor in the Caribbean Terror Plot to Bomb JFK Airport. Gatestone Institute. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2217/iranian-terror-plot-jfk-airport

[14] Jama’at Al-Muslimeen #1. (2008). New Trend Magazine. http://www.newtrendmag.org/jami0001.htm

[15] Jasser, M. Zuhdi. (2010). Connecting the Dots of Islamism—Jibril Hough, the Islamic Political Party of America (IPPA) and the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen (JAM). American-Islamic Forum for Democracy. http://aifdemocracy.org/aifd-briefer-connecting-the-dots-of-islamism-jibril-hough-the-islamic-political-party-of-america-ippa-and-the-jamaat-al-muslimeen-jam/

[16] Jam’at Al-Muslimeen. New Trend Magazine. http://newtrendmag.org/jami.htm

[17] Id.

[18] Gulistan E Shima. New Trend Magazine. http://newtrendmag.org/vsp.htm

[19] Berger, J.M. (2011). Baltimore’s Jamaat Al-Muslimeen: Promoting a Radical but Disciplined Message on Jihad. Combating Terrorism Center of West Point. https://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/baltimore%E2%80%99s-jamaat-al-muslimeen-promoting-a-radical-but-disciplined-message-on-jihad

[20] Id.

[21] News #1045. (2006). New Trend Magazine. http://www.newtrendmag.org/ntma1045.htm

[22] Jama’at Al-Muslimeen #1. (2008). New Trend Magazine. http://www.newtrendmag.org/jami0001.htm

[23] Jasser, M. Zuhdi. (2010). Connecting the Dots of Islamism—Jibril Hough, the Islamic Political Party of America (IPPA) and the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen (JAM). Supra note 15.

[24] Id.

[25]Ferrand, Nicole. (2007). “Islamic Terrorism in Latin America.” Center for Security Policy. http://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2009/03/12/islamic-terrorism-in-latin-america-2/

[26] Singh, Rickey. (2002). U.S. Confirms Link Between Jamaat and Al-Qaeda. Jamaica Observer. http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/33213_US-confirms-link-between-Jamaat-and-al-Qaeda

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Former Muslimeen Man Killed in Syria…Left Trinidad to Join ISIS. (2016). TTWhistleblower. http://ttwhistleblower.com/former-muslimeen-man-killed-syria-left-trinidad-join-isis/

[30] Noel, Otancia. (2015). Yasin Abu Bakr: The Drugs Made Me Do It; Jamaat Boss on 1990 Coup. Wired868. http://wired868.com/2015/07/27/yasin-abu-bakr-the-drugs-made-me-do-it-jamaat-boss-on-1990-coup/

[31] Hassanali, Shaliza. (2015). ‘I Nearly Joined ISIS.’ Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2015-11-22/%E2%80%98i-nearly-joined-isis%E2%80%99

[32] More information is available on the former NYPD informant, Ali Abdel-Aziz, in the section of this website about first-hand testimony.

[33] More information is available in the section of this website about MOA in South America.

[34] Zambelis, Chris. (2009). Jamaat Al-Muslimeen: The Growth and Decline of Islamist Militancy in Trinidad and Tobago. Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor. Volume 7, Issue 23.

[35] Opposition Leader: PM Has Terrorist Links, is Anti-American and Dictatorial. (2006). U.S. State Department. Wikileaks. https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06PORTOFSPAIN1214_a.html

[36] Potter, Angela. (2001). Trinidad Muslims Being Closely Monitored. Associated Press. http://www.canarsiecourier.com/news/2001-11-01/OtherNews/018.html

[37] Singh, Rickey. (2002). U.S. Confirms Link Between Jamaat and Al-Qaeda. Supra note 26.

[38] Dimmock, Gary. (2011). Gadhafi Charity in Canada Linked to Terrorism. Ottawa Citizen. http://pointdebasculecanada.ca/the-canadian-branch-of-the-world-islamic-call-society-transferred-money-from-gadhafis-jihad-fund-to-bank-accounts-of-known-terrorists/

[39] More information is available on the former NYPD informant, Ali Abdel-Aziz, in the section of this website about first-hand testimony.

[40] Zambelis, Chris. (2009). Jamaat Al-Muslimeen: The Growth and Decline of Islamist Militancy in Trinidad and Tobago. Jamestown Foundation Terrorism Monitor. Volume 7, Issue 23.

[41] Singh, Rickey. (2002). U.S. Confirms Link Between Jamaat and Al-Qaeda. Supra note 26.

[42] Zambelis, Chris. (2010). Trinidad’s Troubling Islamist Yasin Abu Bakr. Jamestown Foundation.

[43] Id.

[44] Memo on Alleged Jamaat al Muslimeen Plot in Trinidad Real; The Threat Itself Not So Much. (2015). Caribbean360. http://www.caribbean360.com/news/memo-about-alleged-jamaat-al-muslimeen-plot-in-trinidad-real-the-threat-itself-not-so-much

in Links to Other Islamist Groups