Pennsylvania

A MOA video released in 2010 showed a map of states where it had “Islamic villages” at that time. Pennsylvania was listed. MOA-affiliated sources have confirmed an ongoing, significant presence of members in Philadelphia, but have not identified a commune.

MOA previously had a large “village” at Williamsport where members lived. A former MOA member who lived at the Williamsport compound told Ryan Mauro of Clarion Project/Fuqra Files that there was a second, undisclosed “village” in Pennsylvania that was owned by Fuqra/MOA members and access to it was tightly restricted, with many MOA members not even knowing it existed. The source says that supporters of the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, would train at the second location.

Fuqra/MOA is suspected of firebombing a Hare Krishna temple in Philadelphia on June 16, 1984.[1]

Two MOA safehouses in Williamsport were raided in October 1992 as part of a counter-terrorism investigation. A letter from that time shows that James Upshur was negotiating the purchase of 95 acres for $49,500 for MOA. Upshur was later convicted for terrorism-related activities.

A former MOA member who reside

MOA has long had a “jamaat” (community of members) in Philadelphia. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office said in 2001 that MOA had a Quranic Open University office still operating in Philadelphia.[2] The Colorado Department of Corrections also warned that same year that Fuqra “cells” exist in Pennsylvania.[3]

An alleged MOA compound in its infancy was discovered in Wayne County in 2008 by the Christian Action Network.[4] MOA continues to have a significant presence in Philadelphia and Williamsport.


Origins

Sheikh Gilani recruited a loyal base of supporters in the Philadelphia area from the fractured Dar ul-Islam movement. A Fuqra/MOA “jamaat” in Philadelphia was mentioned in FBI reports by 1988.

A governmental investigative document identifies a man in Williamsport named William Minor, with an Islamic name of Karim Rahim Ustaz Bay, as the principal of the MOA-PA non-profit. Amin A. Rashid of Philadelphia is also listed as being a principal. An individual known as Naib Mustapha A. Rauf of Williamsport is listed as the jamaat administrator for PA in one MOA document. The title of “Naib” indicates he was the top official at the time.

A MOA document from the late 80s or early 90s identifies a “Brother Ahmad” as the group’s representative for the state. A “Umm Isa” (meaning the mother of “Isa” or Jesus) also listed as a representative on a list of jamaat administrators.

One of the key figures was convicted MOA terrorist James L. Upshur. He says he converted to Islam in 1968 and became an “Islamic judge” in Philadelphia to settle disputes between Muslims. He also taught religious classes in Philadelphia and New York City throughout the 1970s.

Upshur became a significant leader in the Colorado and Pennsylvania branches. He was one of five Colorado MOA members indicted in September 1992 for a wide range of criminal activity that financed the organization, its terrorist activity and the leadership in Pakistan.

He was also an official in the MOA of Pennsylvania’s non-profit that oversaw the branch in that state. He was a signatory to its checking account since 1990. The MOA of PA shared an address with a mosque at 5018 Beaumont St. in Philadelphia known as Dar-Ul Miska or the House of Musk.[5]

Upshur was also connected to a group known as the Jawala Scouts in Pennsylvania. MOA-affiliated sources say that it is part of a radical Sufi group that is separate from MOA but welcomes MOA members in its activities, which includes indoctrination and military-style training of boys and young men.[6]

Another convicted MOA terrorist from the Colorado branch, Edward Flinton, first met Sheikh Gilani in Philadelphia. He met his wife at the MOA-affiliated mosque on 52nd Street in 1978. Flinton said after his arrest that a MOA operative known as “Doorsman” held “pseudo-military” classes in Philadelphia.

Vincente Rafael Pierre, another convicted member from the Colorado MOA, also lived in Williamsport.

Sheikh Gilani formed an international force for waging jihad named “Soldiers of Allah” in 1991-1992.[7] Copies of the applications to join the Soldiers of Allah show that a large portion of enlistees came from Williamsport and Philadelphia. One applicant listed that he was skilled in fundraising and took a basic demolition course from “M.J.” in Virginia in 1983 and a refresher course in 1990.


Attempts to Build a Camp in Williamsport

Internal MOA documents show that the group tried to buy land in Williamsport for $74,000 in 1992. One letter shows that the group considered a second location of 95 acres for $47,500. The documents do not indicate whether a purchase took place. MOA-affiliated sources recall that the group fundraised for a camp in Pennsylvania but the plan fell through.

One document from the MOA branch in Williamsport announces the expulsion of a member named Khalid Abdul Muqtiddir for allegedly filing a false police report about MOA. He told the police that members were armed; that MOA was keeping him from seeing his family; the group was trying to force him to house someone in his apartment against his will and that members engage in polygamy.

MOA’s announcement banished him for telling the police about the group’s activities and domestic issues and talking about polygamy “in a way that condemns Islam.” It claimed that the leadership separated him from his family because he was physically and mentally abusing his wife’s children and that he violated the privacy of the two members’ homes on three occasions.


1992 Counter-Terrorism Raids

Law enforcement authorities raided two MOA safehouses in Williamsport in October 1992 simultaneously with raids on a 101-acre MOA terrorist training camp in Buena Vista, California and two MOA safehouses in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The investigation was related to terrorism, robbery, murder and various financial crimes including worker’s compensation fraud and money transfers to Pakistan.[9]

A law enforcement source involved in the investigation says that strong evidence was found that MOA was defrauding the Pennsylvania State government just as it had been doing in Colorado.


Islamic Society of Susquehanna Valley

Declassified documents report that the MOA of Pennsylvania non-profit organization received many checks from a mosque named the Islamic Society of Susquehanna Valley.[10] An online directory of mosques places that facility at Sunbury, PA.[11] A now-defunct website for the mosque stated that events were held at the Ghulam Rasool Mosque in Sunbury. The website did not acknowledge any ties to MOA when it was last updated in 2000.

The mosque’s website linked to various organizations, materials and individuals tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, such as Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef al-Qaradawi, Fiqh As-Sunnah (a Brotherhood text) and the Islamic Society of North America. It also linked to the Islamic Circle of North America, a derivative of an Islamist party in Pakistan and to the Benevolence International Foundation, an Al-Qaeda front used to support terrorists in Bosnia and Chechnya.[12]


New Bloomfield Camp Linked to 1993 World Trade Center Bombing

A large camp in New Bloomfield (Perry County) that was used by Islamist terrorists linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-up “Day of Terror” bomb plots is suspected of being part of the Fuqra/MOA network. Members of MOA were involved in those plots.

It is reported that MOA members worked with the Al-Kifah Network, a coalition of Islamist terrorist groups (including the Blind Sheikh’s group and Al-Qaeda), to set up the paramilitary camp in Pennsylvania. Those associated with the camp said they were recruiting and training to “help Muslims in Bosnia.”[13]

The 35-acre camp on Cold Storage Road was run by an African-American Muslim convert named Kelvin Smith who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey. He converted to Islam in 1980 and moved from Harrisburg to the camp in Perry County in 1986. He went by the name of Abdul Muhaimin.

Smith was an officer with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the time and worked in an office that was one floor above the FBI field office headquarters in Harrisburg.[14] He was also a security guard and martial arts instructor at a military academy in New Bloomfield.

His farm was used as a business. It had a gun shop and firing range and he provided courses in firearms, hunting, camping, tracking and similar activities. He said it had about 200 customers annually, including Boy Scouts and members of law enforcement. He advertised his classes in mosques in N.Y. and N.J. in the early 1990s.

Two of the MOA members from the Colorado terrorist training camp operation were arrested in 1992 very close to Smith’s farm.

Later that year, Smith’s camp was used as a paramilitary training site by a group of Muslims linked to the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the terrorists who committed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and attempted to bomb four targets in New York City shortly thereafter.

The group of Islamist terrorists returned in early 1993 for four weekends of training. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, visited the camp twice in January and February shortly before the attack on February 26.[15]

Three Islamist terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing underwent paramilitary training at the camp. Smith said he recognized two of the eight arrested for plans to bomb targets in New York City who visited his camp four times since Feb. Some of those involved in the bombing and the foiled plots were part of Fuqra/MOA.

Smith said he did not know who they were. He said he thought they were preparing to fight in Bosnia.[16]

Another individual named Yahya Abu Ubaidah Muhammad, previously known as Karl Dexter Taylor, was involved with the Blind Sheikh’s group and was arrested in Queens in February 1995 for delivering guns to the camp. He bought six assault weapons at a Virginia gun show in November 1992 and gave them to the group that trained at the site.[17]

Yahya Abu Ubaidah lived in the same apartment building as Clement Hampton-El, a reported MOA member involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[18] Ubaidah also had a martial arts school inside the building and instructed at Smith’s camp. He utilized his experience from serving two tours in the Vietnam War as a Marine.[19] The training included simulating attacks on power substations,[20] which documents seized from MOA show they also prepared for and may have actually committed such an attack in Colorado.

Neighbors recalled seeing vans with N.Y. and N.J. license plates arriving at Smith’s camp. The guests were armed with rifles and wearing military camouflage and trained at nighttime.

Smith was approached by the FBI for information shortly before the bombing. He told the agents that he had no contact information for the trainees. During the discussion, he said that he is proud to serve in law enforcement but is “Muslim first” above all else. He then used a government-issued secure line that he had access to from being in the U.S. Fish & Wildfire Service to warn them that they had been indicted.

The camp was raided on June 26, 1993, as was Smith’s home in Centre Township. The FBI confiscated firearms from Smith’s vehicle.

Smith was found to have destroyed crucial evidence by throwing four semiautomatic rifles into the Delaware River. The authorities also searched his pond for weapons. An attendee of the training told the FBI that the group hid or disposed weapons at the camp.

It is believed that he used the money he earned from the trainees to buy ammunition and weapons, including assault rifles, for them to use on the property. He also used his Federal Wildlife Officer discount to purchase repelling equipment for one of the trainees in Brooklyn after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing took place. He lied to the FBI and said that all the weapons on his camp belonged to him.

Smith pled guilty in 1999 to lying to the FBI during the investigation and destroying evidence. He was sentenced to 366 days in prison.[21]

Smith denied belonging to Fuqra, answering the question by saying he is a Sunni Muslim. However, all MOA members deny Fuqra’s existence and identify as a Sunni-Sufi. Other MOA members have replied by saying they are Sunni when questioned.


Alleged Wayne County Camp

The Christian Action Network reported discovering an alleged MOA camp in Wayne County in 2008 and showed the site in a documentary the following year.[22] It was found due to information provided by a reputable local who was familiar with the Islamberg headquarters in Hancock, New York.

The source said that MOA had recently begun setting up the camp but were having problems with taxes and securing permits. The individual said that members lived there and the presence was increasingly. Neighbors told the filmmakers about gunfire coming from the site and that reclusive Muslims were residing there.

Martin Mawyer, President of the Christian Action Network, is seen in the film approaching the camp when it was vacant. A deliberately defaced American flag is hanging on the side of a building that was damaged by bullets or blades. A strange sign was on a tree with a white airplane and a green background.

One of the filmmakers, Jason Campbell, states that the site is about 200 acres in size and has an entrance on Maple Road.[23] It is unclear if the camp exists or was abandoned after the film was released.


2004 Islamic Naat Group Event in Philadelphia

A law enforcement source told the Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro that Fuqra/MOA held an event titled “A Celebration of the Nasheeds” on June 27, 2004 in Philadelphia. It was organized under the name of the Islamic Naat Group LLC registered to PO Box 92 in Red House, Virginia. The address is part of the Ahmadabad West compound at that location.

The source estimated that 60-70 vehicles strangely parked in a privately-owned lot two blocks away from the convention site, even though parking at the site was available. The vehicles were from all over the U.S. and Canada and only 20 men were there appearing to act as security. Between 80 and 100 women were present. The source stated that he suspected that the missing men who normally travel with the women were attending a meeting at another location, using the Islamic Naat Group event as a cover for their travel.

 


Drug Trafficking

A member of MOA from the group’s “Baladullah” compound in California was arrested in Philadelphia in November 2003 for shipping 52 kilos of cocaine from Oakland, California to Philadelphia and Atlanta. He was released in March 2004 because of a processing error and then arrested again in November 2004 in York, South Carolina, the home of MOA’s “Islamville” compound.[24]

Two alleged MOA members were arrested in 2007 for drug trafficking between Philadelphia and Lynchburg, Virginia, which is near two MOA communes.

Documents from a DEA investigation into MOA in Virginia in 2004-2005 refers to a suspected MOA drug trafficker as having a “business interest” in a large number of businesses in Philadelphia. The DEA files refer to MOA as a “domestic terrorist group suspected of utilizing drug proceeds to finance terrorist activities in Southwest Asia.” The files also contain three references to Osama Bin Laden.

Philadelphia Member Wanted for Murder in 2004

A declassified DEA document says that the FBI received information on December 23, 2004, that a MOA member wanted for murder in Philadelphia was living at the MOA compound in Sweeny, TX.

 


[1] Al-Fuqra: Holy Warriors of Terrorism. Anti-Defamation League (1993).

[2] Memo to National Association of Attorneys General and FBI Denver field office. (2001). Colorado Attorney General’s Office.

[3] “Memorandum: Fuqra.” (2001). Colorado Department of Corrections.

[4] Homegrown Jihad: Terrorist Camps Around U.S. (2009). PRB Films / Christian Action Network. http://www.christianaction.org/shop/homegrown-jihad

[5] 1988 FBI report.

[6] For more information on the MOA to this group, see the section of this website about MOA’s links to other Islamist groups.

[7] For more information on “Soldiers of Allah,” see the section of this website about guerilla training.

[8] Martines, Lawrence J. (2010). Jam’at Al-Fuqra, a.k.a. Society of the Impoverished. Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International. Vo. 8, No. 3.

[9] For more information on the 1992 raids, read the section of this website about Fuqra activity in Colorado

[10] 1988 FBI report.

[11] Islamic Society of Susquehanna Valley. (n.d.). Islamic Valley. http://islamicvalley.com/iv/mosque/info/53M/islamic+society+of+susquehanna+valley

[12] In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. (2000). Susquehanna Valley Islamic Society. http://www.oocities.org/svislamics/

[13] Martines, Lawrence J. (2010). Jam’at Al-Fuqra, a.k.a. Society of the Impoverished. Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International. Vo. 8, No. 3.

[14] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live.

[15] 3 Suspects Recalled at Firing Range / Site Owner Cooperates with FBI. (1993). Associated Press. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

[16] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live.

[17] McKinley, James. (1995). Man Tied to Sedition Case Held in Gun-Running. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/22/nyregion/man-tied-to-sedition-case-held-in-gun-running.html

[18] Id.

[19] Goldman, John J. (1995). FBI Arrests Man Accused of Training Bomb Suspects. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-22/news/mn-34711_1_training-camp

[20] Kohlmann, Evan. (2004). Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe. Bloomsbury Academic.

[21] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

[22] Homegrown Jihad: Terrorist Camps Around U.S. (2009). PRB Films / Christian Action Network. http://www.christianaction.org/shop/homegrown-jihad

[23] Id.

[24] Organized Crime in California: Annual Report to the California Legislature. (2005). California Attorney General’s Office, Division of Law Enforcement, Criminal Intelligence Bureau.

 


 

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