Recent Arizona Incidents Get FBI’s Attention



The FBI has sharpened its scrutiny of some Phoenix-area Muslim leaders because of their links to two controversial incidents and a federal probe into the financing of terrorist groups.

No Arizonan has been accused of supporting terrorist groups or actions. However, a Mesa man was charged with lying to the FBI during the financing investigation.

The events that triggered the stepped-up scrutiny were the federal probe into a Muslim charity accused of funneling money to the Palestinian group Hamas; a target-shooting episode in Phoenix this year involving a large group of Muslim men and boys firing hundreds of rounds from AK-47s and other guns; and the high-profile removal in 2006 of six Arizona-bound imams from a jetliner after passengers and crew complained of their behavior.

Shooting Incident

Shortly before noon on a sunny Sunday in March, two Toyota SUVs rolled to a stop along a dirt road in north Phoenix.

About 20 young Muslim males climbed out, armed with assault rifles, a shotgun, a sniper rifle and handguns. The location near Happy Valley Road and 51st Avenue is a desert recreation site for off-road motorists, hikers and bikers, dozens of whom were enjoying the spring-like weather.

For more than an hour, the shooters blasted away at a granite rock and empty cans in front of a hill.

Officials estimate the fusillade totaled 500 to 1,000 rounds. Some shooters left before police arrived and detained 10 adults and five boys, including an 11-year-old.

The young men and boys told officers the weapons belonged to their parents. They said they were not aware it was illegal to use firearms in the residential area.

Six were arrested and charged with felony weapons violations in Maricopa County Superior Court. Among them were the 20- and 21-year-old sons of two imams at Phoenix-area mosques, as well as the 20-year-old son of Abdallah.

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The Abdallah case

The FBI’s scrutiny of Abdallah came to light in January 2007, when agents raided his Mesa house and loaded what a neighbor said was two vans full of evidence.

Court records show that Abdallah, a 54-year-old Palestinian, denied during interrogation that he had been a fundraiser for the Holy Land Foundation during the 1990s, when the Islamic charity could still legally receive donations.

At the time of the raid, federal investigators were pursuing a criminal case against the foundation based on allegations that it had channeled money to Palestinian terrorists. The organization had been banned after the 9/11 attacks.

The Abdallah case points to the FBI’s continued interest in Arizonans who have raised money for any charity suspected of supporting militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

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